Wednesday, March 6th, 2019


Mos Def

Before reading the 2018 trade report, many supporters of so-called America First policies were happily chanting "Tariff Man!" After the report, one imagines more were shaking their heads and sighing, "tariffs, man..." From WaPo: Trump promised to shrink the trade deficit. Instead, it exploded. "The United States last year posted a $891.2 billion merchandise trade deficit, the largest in the nation's 243-year history. The trade gap with China also hit a record $419 billion."

+ Bloomberg: "By Trump's own benchmark the U.S. is 20 percent worse off than it was at the end of 2016, just before he took office."

+ None of this is to suggest that the trade gap should be used as a way to measure winners vs losers. Trump established a goal based on a shoddy understanding of international economics and then failed by a wide margin to meet that goal. NYT: "Mr. Trump has long boasted that his trade policies would reduce that gap, which he views as a measure of whether partners like China and the European Union are taking advantage of the United States, a diagnosis that few economists share."


About Face

WaPo on Mark Zuckerberg's massive pivot: "Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced sweeping changes to Facebook's services on Wednesday, saying in a blog post that he would spend the next several years reorienting the company's apps toward encryption and privacy." Ha, ha, ha... Oh shit, he's not joking?


A Prayer for Lordstown

"The assembly line position came with generous health care benefits, an hourly wage more than twice what she had been making at a menswear store, and the promise of a secure retirement — if she could hold on to the job for 30 years ... That world has been evaporating for decades now. On Wednesday, when the Lordstown plant will make its last Chevy Cruze and close its doors, it will get even smaller." CNN: As GM's Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction.

+ WaPo: GM job cuts in Ohio show a hot economy is still leaving parts of America behind. In an interview with Fox News at the time of GM's decision, President Trump explained: "It doesn't really matter because Ohio is under my leadership from a national standpoint. Ohio's going to replace those jobs in like two minutes." (Editor's note: That was 113760 minutes ago.)

+ Read some letters from kids who wrote to GM to save their town's auto plant.

+ Bloomberg: This Is What Peak Car Looks Like.

+ For an excellent ethnography focused on what happens to towns when a major plant closes, check out Janesville by Amy Goldstein.


Nasal Passage

"Thank goodness we now have something with a different mechanism of action than previous antidepressants. But I'm skeptical of the hype, because in this world it's like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown: Each time we get our hopes up, the football gets pulled away." NYT: Fast-Acting Depression Drug, Newly Approved, Could Help Millions. "A nasal spray version of the drug ketamine has shown promise as an antidepressant, even if its properties still aren't well understood."

+ Quartz: Ketamine's journey from medicine to party drug back to medicine. (If this drug works, we're gonna definitely party.)


Wrong Place Wrong Time

"His head looked huge atop his emaciated body. His skin looked paper thin over his protruding ribs. Vincent was still six months shy of his second birthday. He was so malnourished he could no longer eat ... The Central African Republic is now home to more than a million Vincents — a humanitarian crisis of epic scale that has largely gone unnoticed." NBC News: This African nation is now the most dangerous place in the world for children.



"In 2011, days after Donald Trump challenged President Barack Obama to 'show his records' to prove that he hadn't been a "terrible student," the headmaster at New York Military Academy got an order from his boss: Find Trump's academic records and help bury them." Marc Fisher in WaPo: How Trump's high school transcript was hidden.

+ President pressured staff to grant security clearance to Ivanka Trump.

+ OK, perhaps you were hoping for something a little weirder? Try this from ProPublica: Trump Mar-a-Lago Buddy Wrote Policy Pitch. The President Sent It to VA Chief.

+ These often unbelievable tales of nepotism and narcissism take so much of our attention that little things that are big things slip by unnoticed in the chaos of Scandalmania. For example, this headline from Bloomberg: Trump Cancels U.S. Report on Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes. Or this one from Vice: Trump's Justice Department Is Investigating 60% Fewer Civil Rights Cases Than Obama's.


Dick Portrait

"It's difficult to exaggerate how hard it is to earn a reputation as a dick in Washington. It's like being known as a real nerd by fellow scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or as the resident prude by sisters at a nunnery." The Atlantic's Graeme Wood with a profile of John Bolton, who "is, incredibly, the only senior security official close to Trump who has seen how a normal White House works." Will John Bolton Bring on Armageddon—Or Stave It Off?


R Rated

"Quit playing! I didn't do this stuff! This is not me! I'm fighting for my f*cking life!" Gayle King maintained remarkable composure as R. Kelly went off during his first interview since being arrested and then bailed out. (He should have spent more time on media training and less time raping underaged girls.) NY Mag: R. Kelly Angrily Denies Charges in Gayle King Interview, Says He's Being Buried Alive. (That's not an entirely bad idea...)


Billie the Kid

"If you still don't know who Billie Eilish is, there's a good chance you are old. I'm very sorry, but it's true. And if you do know who Billie Eilish is, you probably feel old anyway." Fader: Who's Billie Eilish? (I'm old and I feel old, but I'm a longtime member of the Billie Club. I recommended Billie Eilish in a Weekend What like two months ago -- an eternity in the case of my kids' musical tastes.)


Bottom of the News

"Sick of influencers, rappers, yoga aficionados, and fashion shoots blocking their doorways, Rue Crémieux's residents have had enough. This week, the street's residents' association demanded that the city of Paris protect their privacy by closing the street to visitors on evenings and weekends." CityLab: The Special Curse of Living on Instagram's Favorite Street.

+ Kottke: A Light Installation in a Scottish Coastal Town Vividly Shows Future Sea Level Rise. (Amazing. Artists and Scientists FTW.)

+ 15 cool facts about frozen food.