Monday, November 12th, 2018


The Front

On this Veteran's Day, we begin, appropriately, with a report about the American military on the front lines. This story is neither as harrowing nor as heroic as many others. And yet, it is, in its own way, particularly grim. From the NYT: Deployed Inside the United States: "Sergeant Micek could almost see the bright orange and white roof of Whataburger, a fast-food utopia eight miles away but off limits under current Army rules. The desert tan flatbed trucks at the base are for hauling concertina wire, not food runs. Such is life on the latest front where American soldiers are deployed. The midterm elections are over, along with President Trump's rafter-shaking rallies warning that an approaching migrant caravan of Central Americans amounts to a foreign 'invasion' that warrants deploying up to 15,000 active-duty military troops to the border states of Texas, Arizona and California. But the 5,600 American troops who rushed to the brown, dry scrub along the southwest border are still going through the motions of an elaborate mission that appeared to be set into action by a commander in chief determined to get his supporters to the polls, and a Pentagon leadership unable to convince him of its perils."

+ And a nuanced reminder from a war widow: I was Pat Tillman's wife, but I can't speak for him. Neither can you.


The Fantastic Forerunner

"I used to think what I did was not very important. People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed." The presence of the creator of X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Spiderman, and the Black Panther will likewise not be easy to dimiss. Stan Lee, the superhero of superheroes, has died at 95. (Stan Lee put the Pop! in pop culture.)

+ "Racism and bigotry are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. Unlike costumed supervillains, they can't be halted with...a zap from a ray gun. They only way to destroy them is to expose them - to reveal from the insidious evil they really are." One of the many great (and still timely) quotes from Stan Lee.


The Golden State

I've lived in the Bay Area from the better part of my whole life. I've seen the whole area fill with smoke and ash from far away fires twice during that period. Both in the last year. We are breathing in other people's tragedies. Is this this new normal? To answer that question, follow the money. "Two fires have left 31 people dead in the state. But even insurance companies think blazes will be bigger in just a few decades." The Atlantic: The Worst Is Yet to Come for California's Wildfires.

+ "More than 190,000 acres have burned, 272,000 people have been evacuated, and around 8,200 firefighters are battling the blazes ... the Camp fire has scorched more than 6,700 structures, making it the most destructive in California history." Here's the latest from Buzzfeed.

+ InFocus: The Woolsey Fire Leaves Devastation in Malibu. Remarkable photos.

+ My most excellent friends at 3 Fish Studios are selling art to raise money for California fire relief. You get great stuff. Fire relief orgs get much-needed dough. Please buy and please share.


Voices Didn’t Carry

"They told their parents. They told gymnastics coaches, running coaches, softball coaches. They told Michigan State University police and Meridian Township police. They told physicians and psychologists. They told university administrators. They told, repeatedly, USA Gymnastics. They told one another. Athletes were interviewed, reports were written up, charges recommended. The story of Larry Nassar is not a story of silence. The story of Larry Nassar is that of an edifice of trust so resilient, so impermeable to common sense, that it endured for decades against the allegations of so many women." Kerry Howley in NY Mag: Everyone Believed Larry Nassar.


Un Believable

"North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North's nuclear threat." David Sanger and William Broad in the NYT: In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception. (There are a lot of those going around these days...)


AR-15 Minutes of Fame

"Willeford is fully aware why he's so popular among a certain segment of society. He knows that he's become a symbol; his actions that day make the perfect story for gun rights advocates to tell. Not only did he use his personal firearm to stop an active shooter, he did it with an AR-15, the same type of gun used in many mass shootings, including this one ... And he agrees with many of the arguments strangers are making when they cite his name. If AR-15s were banned, he would have been less well equipped to defend himself and his friends ... But he didn't ask to be a citation in someone else's debate. His experience is more than a data point. Those seven minutes ravaged his community." Michael J Mooney in Texas Monthly: The Hero of the Sutherland Springs Shooting Is Still Reckoning with What Happened that Day.

+ When the American College of Physicians published a paper on Reducing Firearm Injuries and Deaths in the United States, the NRA told doctors "to stay in their lane." Doctor's responded. "Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn't just my lane. It's my f*cking highway."


Count Dreckula

A decent summary of American politics in a single sentence: "As Florida officials scrambled to review more than 8 million ballots by Thursday, Trump, without providing evidence, cast doubt on the recount process." Reuters: Trump seeks end for Florida recount as Republicans' leads shrink.

+ NYT: See How Close the Results Are in Florida, Georgia and Arizona.

+ Vox: The races that still haven't been called, explained.


City Slickers

"Did the world's smartest company really need 13 months, and applications from 238 cities, to reach the striking conclusion that it should invest in New York and DC? The former is America's heart of capital, and the latter is America's literal capital, where Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, already owns a house and a newspaper." And another question from Derek Thompson: Why the hell are U.S. cities spending tens of billions of dollars to steal jobs from one another in the first place? (Editor's follow up question: Why does the media cover Amazon's every PR move like it's actual news?)


Let There Be LED

"In addition to shaping the plants, LEDs allow speedy, year-round crop cycles. This permits Zelkind and his team of growers and technicians to produce 200,000 pounds of leafy greens, vine crops, herbs and microgreens annually in a 12,000-square-foot warehouse, an amount that would require 80 acres of farmland." WaPo: High-tech farmers are using LED lights in ways that seem to border on science fiction. Growing the future.


Bottom of the News

"In what I'm sure was a huge shock for people who know me, I made a poor choice last week. If any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something: that I'm a dick!" A Veterans Day Apology From Saturday Night Live and Pete Davidson. (Wherein we learn that incoming Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw has solid comedic timing...)

+ "He refused to be carried on a stretcher, because he didn't want to expose comrades to enemy fire for no good reason. He walked to a medical evacuation, where he was put into a coma. He woke up in Germany a few days later, blind and swollen." WaPo: Dan Crenshaw started the week as a punchline and ended it as a star. The real story came before that.

+ The Kansas Shoe Salesman Responsible for Veterans Day.

+ Twenty slang terms from WWI.

+ On Sunday, Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey's attempt hit the upright. Four times.