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.


The Commentariat -- December 2

President Obama & Vice President Biden meet with new governors:

AP: "President Barack Obama firmly defended his signature health care bill to a roomful of newly elected governors Thursday, many of them Republicans elected by railing against him and the expanding reach of the federal government."

Reid Wilson of the National Journal: "Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget."

Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy) blocked an unemployment bill which in a Senate speech he said he deplored because it extended unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. But the bill does not extend benefits beyond 99 weeks; it extends benefits beyond 26 weeks.

Igor Volsky of the Wonk Room: "McCain ... openly impl[ied] that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen was not living up to the expectations of leadership because he did not ask the troops if they favored repealing the [DADT] policy." With video. ...

... Adm. Mullen & Secretary Gates tear into Sen. McCain's objections to DADT repeal:

... More here, with a bit of repetition, but compelling exchanges:

With all due respect, Mr. Chairman and Sen. McCain, it is true that, as chairman, I am not in charge of troops. But I have commanded three ships, a carrier battle group and two fleets. And I was most recently a service chief myself. For more than 40 years I have made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women. You do not have to agree with me on this issue. But don't think for one moment that I haven't carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that that advice informs. I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation and for our collective honor. -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, reacting to John McCain's criticism of his leadership

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' opening testimony before a Senate Committee on DADT:

AP: "Directly challenging the Pentagon's top leadership, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday snubbed a military study on gays as flawed and said letting gays serve openly would be dangerous in a time of war." ...

... AND Yahoo News: Update: "Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen shot back at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for implying that Mullen is not in charge of troops and is thus not qualified to say that the military should end its ban on openly gay service."

At least David Brooks doesn't like Republicans, either:

Two segments in which Rachel Maddow compares racial integration of the military & repealing DADT:

... Here's the New York Times report on the Pentagon's DADT study. You can read the report here. ...

     ... Politico Update: "President Obama says the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' review 'confirms' that most service members are comfortable working alongside gays. Obama also called on the Senate on Tuesday to 'act as soon as possible' on legislation repealing the ban on gays serving in the military so he could sign it 'this year.'"

Andrew Sullivan on "The Dickishness of the GOP": "I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president. Worse, figures like Cantor and McCain actively seek to back foreign governments against the duly elected president of their own country."

Peter Goodman in the Huffington Post: "In Washington, the agenda has long since moved on from bailing out megabanks to figuring out how to stop paying for things that regular people need -- luxuries like health care, retirement benefits and unemployment insurance." ...

... Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic: See? Goldman Sachs is bullish on the economy. ...

** "Too Big to Succeed." Thomas Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in a New York Times op-ed, says that to restore integrity to the financial system, Congress must enact legislation similar to Glass-Steagall: "Taking similar actions today to reduce the scope and size of banks, combined with legislatively mandated debt-to-equity requirements, would restore the integrity of the financial system and enhance equity of access to credit for consumers and businesses. Studies show that most operational efficiencies are captured when financial firms are substantially smaller than the largest ones are today."

Neil Irwin & Jia Lin Yang of the Washington Post: "The Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars into all manner of banks, investment firms and major companies during the financial crisis, according to documents released Wednesday that reveal for the first time the full scope of the Fed's emergency lending.... The Fed said it does not anticipate incurring any losses; indeed, many of the programs have turned a profit for shareholders." ...

... Junk for Cash. Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Lehman Brother’s collapse in the fall of 2008 inspired panic on Wall Street, but it also presented a little-noticed opportunity for the country’s remaining elite banks: They could now receive cheap Federal Reserve loans without posting quality collateral. As part of an emergency loan program, the Fed accepted as collateral more than $1 trillion in junk-rated investments from Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and others...." ...

We’re talking about huge sums of money going to bail out large foreign banks. Has the Federal Reserve become the central bank of the world? I think that is a question that needs to be examined. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, "who wrote the provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that required the Fed disclosures" ...

... Sen. Bernie Sanders & Eliot Spitzer discuss the Fed's generosity to Wall Street:

... Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal: "Top Federal Reserve officials are pressing lawmakers to pair a long-term plan for deficit reduction with new short-term fiscal stimulus to boost an economy that the central bank admits needs more help than it can provide."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio wonders out loud how Democrats are losing a fight where Republican plan to extend massive tax cuts for the rich & Democrats want to extend of jobless benefits.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama appears to be building momentum for Senate approval of a new arms control treaty with Russia by the end of the year, but it may have to come at the expense of other legislative priorities with far greater support among his liberal base."

Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "The results of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan have brought a new period of uncertainty, deepened skepticism of the government and stirred volatile ethnic fault lines."

When everything is classified, nothing is classified.... The hallmark of a truly effective internal security system would be the maximum possible disclosure, recognizing that secrecy can best be preserved only when credibility is truly maintained. -- Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in his Pentagon Papers opinion, 1971

"WikiLeaks' War on Secrecy." Massimo Calabresi of Time: "The number of new secrets designated as such by the U.S. government has risen 75%, from 105,163 in 1996 to 183,224 in 2009.... The number of documents and other communications created using those secrets has skyrocketed nearly 10 times, from 5,685,462 in 1996 to 54,651,765 in 2009. Not surprisingly, the number of people with access to that Everest of information has grown too.... As more individuals handle more secrets in more places around the world, it naturally becomes harder to keep track of them. But more than that, it diminishes the credibility of the government's judgment about what should be secret."

... Fareed Zakaria in Time: "The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast [with the Pentagon Papers], show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly.... The cables also show an American diplomatic establishment that is pretty good at analysis." ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones: WikiLeaks cables show that "the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation" of Bush administration officials who participated in authorizing the torture of suspected enemy combatants. The six officials Obama & Republicans got off the hook were Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee & John Yoo. ...

AP: "Sweden's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a court order to detain WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The 39-year-old Australian, who denies the accusations made by two Swedish women after his visit to the country in August, had appealed two lower court rulings allowing investigators to bring him into custody and issue an international arrest warrant."

C. J. Chivers of the New York Times: "scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable." ...

... C. J. Chivers: "In Georgia, diplomats appeared to set aside skepticism and embrace Georgian versions of important and disputed events.... The last cables before the eruption of the brief Russian-Georgian war showed an embassy relaying statements that would with time be proved wrong." ...

Today, we are all Georgians. -- John McCain, August 12, 2008 ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A trove of diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks ... disclose a perception by American diplomats that Canadians 'always carry a chip on their shoulder' in part because of a feeling that their country 'is condemned to always play "Robin" to the U.S. "Batman."'” ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... the self-proclaimed whistleblower website [WikiLeaks] and its eccentric founder, Julian Assange, were the subjects of bellicose threats from politicians and world leaders, but to this day have faced fewer immediate legal consequences than those selling fake Coach handbags and unauthorized Disney DVDs."