Wednesday, March 13th, 2019


Famous Last Words

"The death penalty has been an abject failure. It discriminates based on the color of your skin or how much money you make. It's ineffective, irreversible, and immoral. It goes against the very values that we stand for." That statement comes from California Governor Gavin Newsom as he used an executive order to suspend the state's death penalty and ordered immediate shutdown of the death chamber at San Quentin. The last execution carried out at San Quentin was back in 2006, so when it comes to the actual number of executions, the order may not have a major impact. The same is not true when it comes to how Newsom's move will alter the tenor of the debate on the subject. You can now expect the death penalty to move towards the top of the stack of contentious issues at the center the 2020 election. And the debate will likely mirror this headline from the Sacramento Bee: Newsom's death penalty moratorium met with praise and rage.


Sentence Fragments

"I accept responsibility for the acts that have caused me to be here today. Furthermore, I want to apologize for all that I did that contribute to these actions and to the effects that they had on both people and institutions." So said Paul Manafort before his second sentencing in a week. The two sentences combined will send him to prison for more than seven years.

+ Just about the time Manafort was getting sentenced, a Manhattan grand jury was indicting him on 16 counts tied to residential mortgage fraud and conspiracy. A key element of this case: "Trump has the power to pardon Manafort on federal charges, but the president would not be able to intervene in the event of a conviction on state charges."


Intentional Grounding

Yesterday, I predicted that by noon today, the FAA would ground the 737 Max 8 and 9 planes. Keeping them in use was simply not a tenable position with so many other countries opting out. And with about 26 minutes to spare, President Trump made the announcement. Here's the latest from CNN.

+ While these planes have been controversial in the news for a few days, they've been controversial among pilots for a lot longer. Dallas News: Several Boeing 737 Max 8 pilots in U.S. complained about suspected safety flaw.

+ Quartz: Ethiopian Airlines crash came after US shutdown delayed Boeing 737 Max fixes.

+ The technical story has pulled our attention away from the human story. NYT: Three Generations of a Canadian Family Died in Ethiopian Plane Crash.


The Born Identity

Timing is everything, and the timing of this college scandal is bad. It's not going to blow over. Whatever the parents spent on college payoffs, they'll spend 10x that on lawyers … and that might not do the trick. Fifty people have been accused, but there might be more people caught up in this scandal. Buzzfeed explains how it worked. (As I said yesterday, I rarely give parenting advice, but your kids are never going to be prepared for adulthood unless you make them cheat and bribe their own way into college.)

+ "In extreme cases, wealthy parents make hefty donations to schools, or, for example, pay for new campus buildings. The 33 parents now being charged allegedly opted instead for organized conspiracy." The Atlantic: Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd.

+ "The vast majority of athletes at elite colleges are not superstars with a chance of going pro. They are instead the kinds of athletes that actress Lori Loughlin allegedly pretended her daughters were: decent high-school athletes in less-prominent sports like rowing, soccer, and water polo." Slate: Sports Recruiting Is the Real College Admissions Scam. (Editor's note: The real college admissions scam is the notion that certain schools are worth risking your reputation and even your freedom to get accepted into. It's all marketing. The debt and graduation rates, however, are completely real.)

+ Boston Globe: Who was acing tests for rich kids in the admissions scam?

+ And if you thought the college admissions scandal represents parent advocacy run amok, check out this headline: Angry dad brings loaded AK-47 to Florida school because son called crying.


Sleeping Pills

"In the span of a few short years, fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller 50 times more powerful than heroin, became the drug scourge of our time. Fentanyl has played a key role in reducing the overall life expectancy for Americans." WaPo: The Fentanyl Failure. "Between 2013 and 2017, more than 67,000 people died of synthetic-opioid-related overdoses — exceeding the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined." Fentanyl was originally used with anesthesia. As it became a national emergency, American leadership was asleep at the wheel.


Private Investigator

"Google is the undisputed leader in the tech giants' race to accumulate user data, thanks to its huge array of services, devices and leading share of the digital ad business (37% to Facebook's 22%). It likely knows everything you've ever typed into your browser's search bar and every YouTube video you've ever watched. But that's just the beginning." I'm glad Ina Fried wrote this article. We get caught up in the meme of the moment (in this case, how Facebook treats privacy) and forgot to ask the question: Compared to what? What Google knows about you.

+ Facial recognition's 'dirty little secret': Millions of online photos scraped without consent. (Hopefully the AI can see my expression right now...)


Put Your Lips Together and Blowback

"Many chief executive officers would try to ignore somebody like Tripp. Instead, as accounts from police, former employees, and documents produced by Tesla's own internal investigation reveal, Musk set out to destroy him." Bloomberg: When Elon Musk Tried to Destroy a Tesla Whistleblower.


Schadenfreudian Slip

"We are undergoing an industrial revolution in shame. New technologies have radically expanded our ability to make and distribute a product. The product is our judgment of one another. As in past industrial revolutions, the mass manufacture and use of a product previously available to just a few or in small amounts has given us the power to do harm at a previously unthinkable scale." Salvatore Scibona in the NYT: The Industrial Revolution of Shame.


Pet Scan

"Not only can your pet tell when you have the sniffles, but domestic dogs have shown an aptitude for detecting both much more minute mood fluctuations and far more serious physical conditions." How your dog knows when you're sick. (Your cat knows too. It just doesn't care.)


Bottom of the News

"Fiber may not have the most glamorous profile — in recent decades it's traditionally been associated with bowel regularity and Metamucil commercials. But what if it were, in fact, and in its own way, an embodiment of glamour? What if, in the end, few nutrients/food components hold a candle to fiber's exciting and attractive appeal??" NY Mag: A Plea to Make Fiber Cool. (I'm a middle aged Jewish man. In my world, fiber could not be more cool...)

+ "The NYPD is investigating claims that a Brooklyn cop's body camera inadvertently recorded audio of her performing oral sex on her boss inside a squad car while on the job." (She had the right to remain silent...)