Tuesday, December 4th, 2018


The Kid Stays in the Picture

My kids were innocently munching on a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios when I looked up from my computer and asked, "Why can't you be more entertaining?" They kept munching. "How about just being a little more funny?" Nothing. In short, Ryan won't be getting any competition from my household. And so far, he doesn't seem to be getting that much from anywhere else. What is it about Ryan? In his words, he's "entertaining and funny." Other kids and parents must agree, because Ryan -- who opens and reviews toys in front of a camera -- is the year's highest earning YouTube influencer. From Forbes: How This 7-Year-Old Made $22 Million Playing With Toys. (When I was seven, I dropped a Pet Rock on my toe and cried.)


Vested Powers

From the BBC: "Fuel tax rises which have led to weeks of violent protests in France have now been postponed for six months. The move was announced in a televised address by PM Edouard Philippe, who said anyone would have 'to be deaf or blind' not to hear or see the anger."

+ The Atlantic: France's Fuel-Tax Protests Expose the Limits of Macron's Mandate. "These new measures and conversations may curb the protests, but they probably won't put an end to them. What's happening in France has gone far beyond the fuel tax and spiraled into something more. It has become a vast and unpredictable reservoir of discontent that many other forces—political, apolitical, violent, nonviolent—are eager to draw on." There are many factors driving this uprising that are unique to France. But the increasingly angry public reaction to the growing economic divide is becoming a near-universal issue.


Family Time

"Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids." The Marshall Report: How Incarcerated Parents Are Losing Their Children Forever.


End Time?

"The fact that Mueller is planning a public filing about Manafort suggests he may no longer feel the need to withhold information about his case in order to bring additional indictments against others. That would be consistent with messages his prosecutors have given defense lawyers in recent weeks indicating that they are in the endgame of their investigation." Michael Isikoff: Mueller preparing endgame for Russia investigation.

+ One of the things that could make it hard to wrap up the investigation is that Trump keeps adding to the list of offenses. The latest norm-infraction: Witness-tampering via Twitter.

+ As we enter a busy period in the Mueller investigation, Lawfare's Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes provide some excellent analysis: "There is no sudden bend in the path of the investigation. There is no house of cards. The dominoes will not fall if gently tipped. The administration is not going to come crashing down in response to any single day's events. The architecture of Trump's power is more robust than that. We need to stop thinking of it as a fragile structure waiting for the right poke to fall in on itself. Think instead of the myriad investigations and legal proceedings surrounding the president as a multi-front siege on a walled city that is, in fact, relatively well fortified."


Separating Plastic From Paper … and Reality

"Ever since China banned imports of what's called contaminated recycling -- paper mixed with plastic, for example, or a greasy pizza box -- the waste haulers have had to accept much lower prices for their material or send it to landfills." The recycling business was already struggling. Like many of life's stresses, this situation gets worse during the holidays.


Prince Kingpin

"If the Crown Prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes." So said Bob Corker following a meeting with CIA head Gina Haspel. That puts the Senator in direct opposition to President Trump who continues to deny that his own CIA's evidence is conclusive. And it's not just Corker. The recently converted Trump-o-phile Lindsay Graham "said while there was no smoking gun, there was a 'smoking saw,' referring to the bone saw that investigators have said was used to dismember Khashoggi ... Graham made clear that business as usual with the Saudis had come to end, and said the United States should come down on the government in Riyahd like 'a ton of bricks,' adding that he could no longer support arms sales to the Saudis as long as Mohammed was in charge." WaPo: Senators accuse Saudi crown prince of complicity in Khashoggi murder.


The Shadow Knows

"In a study carried out by a team at Stanford University, scientists found that face and speech software can identify signals of depression with reasonable accuracy." MIT Tech Review: Your smartphone's AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed. (I wonder if it can tell that it's the reason you're depressed...)


Curiosity and a Cool Cat

"She used to go by his restaurant every day. She'd just stand out there, looking in and smelling the smells and thinking about it. One day Tony came out and said, 'Hey, I see you here all the time.' She said, 'Yeah, I can't afford to eat here.' He said, 'Come in. I'm gonna feed you.' And so he fed her a steak and a proper béarnaise sauce while she sat amongst the crowd." There was just something about Anthony Bourdain. His friends and colleagues try to explain exactly what that something was. GQ: The Last Curious Man.


Snow Board Meeting

"Dane Best says he took up the cause on behalf of his friends and classmates.
He delivered a presentation on the subject to a local town board, who backed his message on Monday night." BBC: Boy gets Colorado town to overturn snowball fight ban. "The law was created many years ago. Today's kids need a reason to play outside." (OK, maybe his parents helped him a little with that line...)


Bottom of the News

"The votes have been tallied, the numbers have been crunched, the excessive horniness has been accounted for, and the winner of 2018's Bad Sex Awards in Fiction Award is here." Warning, this content is definitely not appropriate for children (mostly because the writing is so damn bad...)

+ 25 Questions about Hanukkah, Answered! (Before reading this, the only question about Hanukkah that I was aware of was: "You call that a Latke?")

+ The 2018 Kottke Holiday Gift Guide.

+ NPR: The Best Music Of 2018.