June 4th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A Pardon for the Pardoner? Plus, the Supreme Court's Torte Reform, and Scott Pruitt goes to the mattresses.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” So tweeted President (and noted constitutional law scholar) Donald Trump on Monday morning, before adding: “The appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

+ Aside from the likely disastrous political fallout, does the president really have the power to pardon himself? (I’m probably too biased to answer that question. I can’t even pardon the all caps.) Vox asked 15 experts if it would be legal.

+ The Atlantic: “Where Richard Nixon insisted to David Frost that ‘when the president does it, that means it is not illegal,’ Trump is gesturing toward a different argument: When the president does it, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s legal or not because he can just pardon himself anyway.”

+ If nothing else, the Trump era is turning us all into armchair constitutional law experts. From Lawfare: Can the Presidency Trump a Special Counsel Subpoena?

+ And while were on the general topic, Slate wonders: Would a Former President Get Secret Service Protection in Prison?


Torte Reform

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue respect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” NPR: In a Narrow Decision, Supreme Court Decides In Favor Of Baker Over Same-Sex Couple. As Nina Totenberg writes, the court largely “dodged a major ruling on the question of whether business owners can refuse services to gay individuals based on their religious objections.”

+ While today’s ruling was narrow, the efforts by the religious right to unleash a wave of legislation have been amazingly broad. From The Guardian: Project Blitz: the legislative assault by Christian nationalists to reshape America.


Loyal Flush

It could be because he wants to remove older, more conservative officials who might oppose any nuclear rollbacks. It could also be because he wants to limit exposure to a coup while he’s out of the country. Whatever the specific reasons, the timing of the replacement of three top North Korean military officials is not a coincidence. Reuters: North Korea’s three new military leaders are loyal to Kim.

+ NYT: Planning Trump-Kim Meeting: Who Sits Where, What Will They Eat and Who Pays? (How long will the world have to wait for one of these guys to reach for the check?)


Storm Troopers

“Sandy was initially considered a 100-year storm. But for New York, the probability of another extreme flooding event increases every year. Under today’s conditions, a storm like Sandy will strike once every 25 years. By 2030, scientists expect an extreme storm to hit New York once every five years. With enough sea-level rise, the threat of the next hurricane raises the alarming possibility of a towering wall of water sweeping inland from the Atlantic Ocean, down the Long Island Sound, and toward the city.” The New Republic: Is America Ready for the Next Superstorm?

+ “It may actually be quite difficult to leave California after an earthquake moves one side of the San Andreas past the other by as much as 30 feet.” LA Times: The Big One could leave 250,000-400,000 quake refugees in California. Where will they go?


He Too

“It’s such familiar obfuscation: the definition of is, and all that. But it implicates the rest of us, too. Clinton may have apologized ‘to everybody in the world’; he has not, however, apologized to the person on the direct end of his actions, that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. Instead, he has conflated the ends and the means. And he has suggested—all those hirings, after all; all those appointments; all those recognitions of women’s professional capabilities—that women, if they’re smart about it, should simply do the math.” The Atlantic’s Megan Garber on Bill Clinton’s book tour that (inevitably) turned to the topic of MeToo and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton Feels His Own Pain.


Selfie Regulation

“Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing.” NYT: Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep
Access to Data on Users and Friends
. (I guess now we know why Facebook killed trending topics. Bad news about them is what’s trending…)

+ The Guardian: Teens are abandoning Facebook in dramatic numbers.


Van Life

“What makes these gains so remarkable is that unlike Silicon Valley, London or New York — where the presence of high-paying tech and finance jobs helps explain housing costs — Vancouver has relatively low salaries. As part of their bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, Vancouver officials boasted about having ‘the lowest wages of all North American tech hubs.'” So how did Vancouver, a city of modest salaries and minimal crowds, end up with housing prices so high that even many home owners want the government to step in? NYT: In Vancouver, a Housing Frenzy That Even Owners Want to End.

+ The Economist: Can a new mayor fix San Francisco’s housing and homelessness problems?


The Juvenile High Club

“Up in the front section of the plane, three adults sip Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Champagne while checking email, completely undisturbed by the action a few rows back. They can’t even hear the children’s squeals of delight when it comes time to eat the chocolate truffles they made themselves by hand. Welcome to the world’s first official Alice in Wonderland adventure in the sky.” What Do Kids Do on Private Jets? “In the race to court customers, VistaJet is producing six-figure play parties at 45,000 feet.” (Parents can achieve a similar outcome by purchasing a couple garden-variety business class seats and leaving the kids at home…)


Going to the Mattresses

“Hupp’s search for a discount ‘Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top’ mattress, which she detailed in a recent interview with congressional investigators, was one of several unusual tasks she performed for the administrator.” WaPo: Scott Pruitt had aide do numerous personal tasks, including a hunt for a used Trump hotel mattress. (Look at the bright side. Recycling a used mattress is the first good thing Pruitt has done for the environment.)


Bottom of the News

“Sometimes, you look at a guy in the gym and think: Huh, he’s got a bit of a gut — bet he doesn’t work out very hard. Then, said guy proceeds to lift a 1978 Volkswagen bus over his head with one arm while still doing lateral lunges. Congratulations, you’ve just met: The Power Gut.”

+ “It is unlikely to be a coincidence that many of the stimuli that elicit the emotion of disgust in humans are also implicated in the transmission of infectious disease.” CNN: Feeling disgust helps us stay healthy. (I open up 75 news tabs a day. I could be the healthiest person ever…)

+ 21 vending machines that are already living in the future.

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