October 24th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

As reality declines, Astrology rises. Plus, the ridiculous impeachment stunt, and the surge in young voters (and the effort to stop them).

“The popularity of astrology is often explained as the result of the decline of organized religion and the rise of economic precariousness, and as one aspect of a larger turn to New Age modalities. Then, there’s the matter of political panic. In times of crisis, it is often said, people search for something to believe in.” (Here’s an idea. We could believe in the truth. Short of that…) “Astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the nineteen-seventies. The shift began with the advent of the personal computer, accelerated with the Internet, and has reached new speeds through social media. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, almost thirty per cent of Americans believe in astrology.” The New Yorker’s Christine Smallwood: Astrology in the Age of Uncertainty. (Whenever someone asks me, What’s your sign?, I answer Yield.)


Invasion of the Head Scratchers

It would be difficult to pick just one lie, piece of transparent stagecraft, or act of faux outrage from Team Trump that stands out as the most ridiculous, but Wednesday’s GOP invasion into a secure impeachment hearing room has to be in the running. There are already Republicans in the room where it happens. “1 out of every 4 Republicans in the House can participate in the inquiry hearings anyway. That doesn’t include Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is also allowed to participate. It does include Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the brother of the vice president.” This is all part of a series of stunts intended to change the topic from the substance (which is horrific for the president) to the process (which we’re supposed to pretend is unfair). WaPo: Here’s why the Matt Gaetz sit-in stunt was particularly weird. (Editor’s note: I’m highlighting this because it’s just the beginning. As the walls close in, the desperate will act out.)

+ Graham and McConnell are set to introduce a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise called the inquiry a “Soviet-style star chamber” (Hey, that beats a Soviet style presidency…) Here’s the latest from the increasingly deep impeachment pit.


Wallet Tu?

“Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.” NYT: From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues.


Military Force of Nature

“‘Increased energy requirements’ triggered by new weather patterns like extended periods of heat, drought, and cold could eventually overwhelm ‘an already fragile system’ … The US military should prepare for new foreign interventions in Syria-style conflicts, triggered due to climate-related impacts. Bangladesh in particular is highlighted as the most vulnerable country to climate collapse in the world.” In the Oval, the issue doesn’t exist. In the Pentagon, it’s a top concern. Vice: U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says.

+ Tired of hearing about the future threat of climate change? You can see the current cost up close from where I’m sitting right now. AP: Hundreds flee fire in California wine country amid blackouts.


Engagement Bling

“The central aim of the stag and doe—beyond, of course, delivering a night of celebratory fun—is to help fund a couple’s upcoming nuptials: The events turn a profit off of revenues from ticket sales and pay-to-play games.” The Atlantic: The Pre-wedding Parties Where Couples Charge Admission. “At a ‘stag and doe,’ communities come together to celebrate the spouses-to-be—and give them a financial boost.” (I usually just give a couples therapy gift card.)


Emergency Break

“There is no hospital in Hebron. In fact, when someone calls 911, there isn’t even a law that requires anyone in Hebron to answer the phone. Like so many other low-income, rural communities across the country, the small town’s ambulance runs on altruism alone.” NBC: What if you call 911 and no one comes? Inside the collapse of America’s emergency medical services.


Young Depressor

“After decades of treating elections as an afterthought, college students have begun voting in force. Their turnout in the 2018 midterms — 40.3 percent of 10 million students tracked by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education — was more than double the rate in the 2014 midterms, easily exceeding an already robust increase in national turnout.” That’s the good news. Well, not for everyone. NYT: The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It.


Eat Prey Love Broccoli

“Beginning in the late 19th century, a steady stream of dietary advice, corporate advertising and magazine articles created a division between male and female tastes that, for more than a century, has shaped everything from dinner plans to menu designs.” How steak became manly and salads became feminine. (In a cultural twist, my wife is a carnivore and I’m a vegetarian. But we both appreciate the occasional tossed salad.)


Quantyum Computing

From the NYT: Would You Like Fries With That? McDonald’s Already Knows the Answer. “Now, the chain has digital boards programmed to market that food more strategically, taking into account such factors as the time of day, the weather, the popularity of certain menu items and the length of the wait. On a hot afternoon, for example, the board might promote soda rather than coffee.” (There’s no limit to what these machines can do!)


Bottom of the News

“Which sketches helped alter sketch comedy itself? Which exemplified or popularized a certain kind of comedic sensibility? What permeated our shared psyche or charted a new way through changing media?” WaPo: The 20 defining comedy sketches of the past 20 years. (Sadly, my tossed salad line in number 8 was published too late to qualify.)

+ At MIT, a rancid 25-year-old milk carton is fetid and famous.

+ Simone Biles threw out the first pitch of a world series game in the most Simone Biles (and least Bababooey) way possible.

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