Monday, June 19th, 2017


Power Trip

"If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of known side effects. It can intoxicate. It can corrupt. It can even make Henry Kissinger believe that he's sexually magnetic. But can it cause brain damage?" According to some research, having a lot of power over a period of time can lead one to lose some of the mental capacities that helped them to amass the power in the first place. A UC Berkeley professor named Dacher Keltner spent decades researching the brains of the powerful, and he found that the they often "acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury -- becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people's point of view." (I suffer many of the same side effects, but mine came from using social media too much.) From The Atlantic: Power Causes Brain Damage. It's like the old adage: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tweets absolutely.


Go West Young Man

Location, location, location. They say those are the three most important factors to consider when buying a house. Well, they play an equally important role when it comes to living a long life. FiveThirtyEight looks at 35 years of American death to give you an idea of where to live, and which counties to avoid. Interestingly, some counties with high vs low mortality rates are not all that far from each other. "As for the counties with the lowest mortality rates, 18 out of 20 fall west of the Mississippi." When death knocks at your door, move.

+ Newsweek: Kids and guns: Shootings now third leading cause of death for US children.

+ Vox: Obesity now kills more people worldwide than car crashes, terror attacks, and Alzheimer's combined.



The already dire situation in Syria threatened to expand over the weekend after the US shot down a Syrian warplane. Russia has condemned the action, "suspending the use of a military hotline that Washington and Moscow have used to avoid collisions in Syrian airspace and threatening to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies over Syria." From the NYT: Russia Warns U.S. After Downing of Syrian Warplane.

+ "The US considers a pilot with at least five confirmed kills to be an ace - but no serving pilot holds the title." From BBC: Why are air combat kills so rare?

+ As seen in a collection of photos that is at once sad and hopeful, a Syrian town breaks Ramadan fast with Iftar among rubble.


Terrorism is Terrorism

"Witnesses said the driver was heard shouting that he wanted to kill Muslims after he was wrestled to the ground. In a stunning twist, however, the driver may have been spared serious harm from the outraged crowd after one of the mosque imams appealed for calm." In the latest vehicular terror attack in London, the target was a group of Muslims gathered outside of a mosque. Theresa May called the attack "every bit as sickening" as the other ones that occurred in recent weeks. (And maybe that twist described above wasn't so stunning.)

+ Mayor of London Sadiq Khan: "Terrorism is terrorism." Here's the latest from the BBC.


Motion Slanted

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause." So wrote Justice Samuel Alito as the Supreme Court ruled that an Asian-American rock band has the right to call itself The Slants. This case could have a wider impact, and play a role in the long-running dispute over the name used by the Washington Redskins; although the motivation of the band makes it clear the cases are not the same. From the band's frontman Simon Tam: "We grew up and the notion of having slanted eyes was always considered a negative thing. Kids would pull their eyes back in a slant-eyed gesture to make fun of us ... I wanted to change it to something that was powerful, something that was considered beautiful or a point of pride instead."


Jeff Bezos Changes the Subject!

I celebrated Father's Day by watching 4 hours of golf with my dad. (I got rid of my kids for the afternoon, but he got stuck with one of his). During such gatherings, the main topic of conversation is usually politics (and in recent months, Trump). Yesterday was an exception as both my parents wanted to talk about Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods. I'm guessing we weren't alone in choosing that topic. So, let's review with the help of a couple Thompsons. From the always lucid Derek Thompson, a basic overview of Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods.

+ Now that we have the basics down, let's get a little more granular with the most excellent Ben Thompson. Amazon's New Customer: "While the iPhone may be the most successful product of all time, Amazon and Jeff Bezos have their sights on being the most dominant company of all time. Start there, and this purchase makes all kinds of sense." (My take: If you own a grocery chain, it's time to pull the trigger on that computer you've been meaning to buy.)

+ From Wired: The Everything Store Expands: "Almost exactly seventeen years ago, on Friday, June 23, 2000, Amazon (then saw its stock crater by twenty percent after the then-powerful investment bank Lehman Brothers issued a warning that the company was on the verge of insolvency, so quickly was it spending down its cash reserves."

+ In one of the more ironic patents in recent memory, Amazon just scored a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking.

+ And for a lighter look at the deal, we've got McSweeney's: "The combination of our two companies will account for over 85% of all hipster purchases in the United States. I'm looking forward to capturing the remaining 15%."


Coz and Effect

"Rape has a foul way of defying adjudication: it is a crime that generally occurs without witnesses, and it traumatizes the victim in a way that can affect memory and lead to behavior that a jury might find questionable. (The more you personally know about rape and its consequences, the more likely it is that you will be kept from serving on a jury in a rape trial—another systematic cruelty of this crime.)" The New Yorker's Jia Tolentino on the dispiriting but unsurprising failure to convict Bill Cosby.

+ A look back at NY Mag's remarkable piece: I'm No Longer Afraid: 35 Women Tell their stories about being assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the culture that wouldn't listen.


Hodgkinson’s Disease

For several days, James Hodgkinson (the shooter of Steve Scalise and others during a GOP baseball practice) has served as an example of our heated political rhetoric taken to an extreme. But he's really a better example of a much more common trend. Domestic abusers who take their violence beyond the home. From the Chicago Tribune: Congressional shooter James Hodgkinson was abusive alcoholic, foster daughter told judge before her overdose death. "Teenager Cathy Rainbolt told a judge her foster father hit her in the face when she failed to mow the lawn correctly. She got hit in the face when she argued. She got hit and dragged by the hair when she tried to get away."


Jared Speaks

For the third time since Trump's election, Jared Kushner will visit the Middle East to push for a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. Before leaving, Kushner held a meeting with tech execs, and afterwards, he gave a statement. If you've never heard him speak out loud, this is your chance. He's sounds younger (and much less Vader-ish) than I imagined.


Bottom of the News

"From their native home in the Middle East, the first tamed cats followed humans out on ships and expeditions to take over the world—settling on six continents with even the occasional foray to Antarctica. Domestication has been a fantastically successful evolutionary strategy for cats." You think you are a cat owner. But you're the one who's been totally owned. From The Atlantic: How Cats Used Humans to Conquer the World.

+ Pamela Anderson really wants to free Julian Assange.

+ Dave Grohl's daughter learned how to play drums a couple weeks ago. So, it's the perfect time to jam in front of 20K fans.

+ Whoever has been personal-training Jonah Hill is about to become the most popular person trainer of all time.