Monday, May 15th, 2017


Cavity Search

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Shakespeare's line might apply to the top brass, but for most Americans another related line is more apt: Uneasy lies the tooth that wears a crown. In an irony that's both twisted and pulled, one can find the most obvious signs of American decay by looking inside our mouths. While wealthy Americans spending billions on making teeth whiter and straighter, "millions of others rely on charity clinics and hospital emergency rooms to treat painful and neglected teeth. Unable to afford expensive root canals and crowns, many simply have them pulled. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans older than 65 do not have a single real tooth left." Why would we expect them to just grin and bear it? From WaPo: The Painful Truth About Teeth.

+ "The problem, of course, with outsourcing our public services to philanthropic organizations is that it shifts agency from the government, which is accountable to the people, to the private sector, which is not." From The New Republic: Have the Rich Become Super Citizens?


Bogarting the Joint

In an era when everything is political, it's almost impossible to say anything that's not politically divisive. But here goes: Jeff Sessions revival of mandatory sentencing for drug offenders is dead wrong. As the NYT's Carl Hulse explains, Sessions' "push to undo Obama-era sentencing policies and ramp up the war on drugs was hardly a surprise. But it was still striking, because it ran so contrary to the growing bipartisan consensus coursing through Washington and many state capitals in recent years." Unity Was Emerging on Sentencing. Then Came Jeff Sessions.

+ The Atlantic: The 5 Scariest Things About Jeff Sessions's New War on Drugs.


Assad True Story

"The State Department said it believed that about 50 detainees a day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison, about 45 minutes north of Damascus. Many of the bodies, it said, are then burned in the crematorium." The US has accused Syria of mass executions and burning the bodies.


Ven Diagram

"Its economy, once Latin America's richest, is estimated to have shrunk by 10 percent in 2016, more than Syria's. Its inflation that year has been estimated as high as 720 percent, nearly double that of second-ranked South Sudan, rendering its currency nearly worthless. In a country with the world's largest proven oil reserves, food has grown so scarce that three in four citizens reported involuntary weight loss, averaging 19 pounds in a year." From the NYT: How Venezuela Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse.


Global Warming on the Rocks

In Pop Song 89, REM asks "Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government?" So let's talk about both: There are those who view President Trump as the world's foremost purveyor of fake news. But in the Oval Office, he is also a regular consumer of it. From Politico: How Trump gets his fake news. "Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter. Trump quickly got lathered up about the media's hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that's circulated for years." (Great, so in addition to fake news, we now have fake weather...)

+ No one knows what to believe anymore (and maybe that's the idea). The president admitted he fired James Comey over the Russia investigation. But Trump's supporters don't believe him.

+ WaPo: Republicans and Democrats agree: If Trump has tapes, he'll need to turn them over to Congress.


Hostage Situation

"Tim Stevens, a lecturer in global security at King's College London, said the incident should be a wakeup call to both the public and private sectors to incorporate security into computer systems from the ground up, rather than as an afterthought." I don't know how many more wakeup calls we need before we actually wake up. From AP: Ransomware wave ebbs, but experts see risk of more.

+ How spending ten bucks on a nonsensical domain name may have sidelined the malware attack.

+ NYT: Hackers are discovering that it is far more profitable to hold your data hostage than it is to steal it. (And it's not particularly hard to do.)

+ Ben Thompson on malware and the one place left to hide: The Cloud.


Hilton’s Head

She "will release her 23rd perfume since 2004 -- an estimated $2 billion business, according to Women's Wear Daily. She's also currently touring the world as a highly-paid DJ, taking up residence in Ibiza for her "Foam & Diamonds" night in the months of July and August. Her mother taught her to never talk money, but it's been reported that Hilton makes approximately $347,000 an hour DJing, or around $1 million a night." From W Magazine: Paris Hilton Invented Everything You're Doing in 2017, and She Knows It. "If a beeper had a camera, I would have taken a selfie with it."

+ "Those involved are perceived as having a personal -- not merely professional -- relationship with the thing they are selling. Which in turn means they bear some responsibility for it. There is a downside to the upside of being an influencer." Vanessa Friedman in the NYT: The Rise and (Maybe) Fall of Influencers.

+ ESPN on How Lonzo and LaVar Ball figured out how to get -- and keep -- our attention. "You may not like me. You may think I'm cocky or arrogant. But you will be thinking about me." To quote Anthony Hopkins' character in Remains of the Day: "I am placing my thoughts elsewhere while you chatter away."


Book Value

"On May 15, 1997, a money-losing online bookstore went public on the Nasdaq in an IPO that valued it at a modest $438 million." Things have gone pretty well since then. From Recode: Amazon's epic 20-year run as a public company, explained in five charts.


The Whole Truth on Swearing

"The heart rates of the volunteers who swore went up relative to those who didn't -- an indication that swearing had indeed engaged the parts of the brain involved in emotion. Notably, the volunteers weren't shouting the curse word but were merely repeating it, without affect. The physical effect seemed to result from the word itself, not from the manner in which it was expressed." The New Yorker on why swearing makes you stronger. (If this were true, the average American liberal would be able to bench press about 600 pounds by now...)


Bottom of the News

"Vice President Pence went horseback riding and shared this quote: 'I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.' If that's the quote he chose, his wife shouldn't let him be with a horse without her present." From me: Comey-tose: Things I thought while reading the news this week.

+ Yawning may promote social bonding between you and your pet. (Unless it's your cat, in which case he's just trying to get his mouth to open wide enough to consume your head.)

+ Next level latte art.

+ And finally, Trump thinks that exercising too much uses up the body's finite energy.