Thursday, January 16th, 2020


A Dough or Die Situation

There's an old joke about a mugger who points a gun at a man and asks, "Your money or your life?" The man pauses and then answers, "My life. I'm saving my money for my old age." Like many jokes, this one has a tie to reality. The truth is that money and life often go together. According to a new study that looked at lifespans in the US and UK, being wealthy adds nine years to life expectancy.

+ Researchers "analyzed how well various factors including education, social class and wealth predicted how long a person would live free of conditions that might impair them from activities such as getting out of bed or cooking for themselves — the study's definition of 'disability-free' and 'healthy.' Everything paled in comparison with wealth." NYT: Rich People Don't Just Live Longer. They Also Get More Healthy Years. (The only downside to the extra years is the inflation...)


Does Anyone Remember Nafta?

"The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, passed by a vote of 89-10. The trade pact, signed by the president in November 2018, received a similar bipartisan vote in the House last month." NPR: Senate OKs North American Trade Deal To Replace NAFTA.

+ "Future deals will make China a better trading partner, the White House says. Beijing claims to foresee an end to American tariffs and the punishing trade war. They are probably both wrong." NYT with a look at China deal, phase one. A Trade Deal Meant to Heal Rifts Could Actually Make Them Worse.



As the Senate impeachment trial formalities get underway, both sides are digesting the latest blockbuster claims by Lev Parnas. In an interview with Rachel Maddow, he basically confirmed everything we've learned so far, and implicated a lot more people. NBC: Giuliani associate Parnas says Trump "knew exactly what was going on." Before you begin to lev-itate at these confirmations, keep in mind that we've had plenty of lev-idence of the quid pro quo (from far more upstanding sources), and none disclaiming it, and GOP Senators (who have all the lev-erage) have remained dug in when it comes to supporting Trump. I'll be surprised if and when the lev-ee breaks. So while the interview feels like Mt Lev-erest, remain lev-el headed, as it may amount to just one more mole hill to sweep aside. Meanwhile, Trump is still getting what he set out to get. The perception of some connection between Ukrainian corruption and Joe Biden. That may all amount to nothing, but it's more than an email server, and look at how far that smear took him. Trump smears are like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never Lev. (Sorry for the lev-ity, it's my coping mechanism.)

+ "Taken together, the comments on Wednesday capped a stunning turnabout for a man who was a Trump donor and once considered himself a close friend of Mr. Giuliani, who is a godfather to his son." NYT: Lev Parnas, Key Player in Ukraine Affair, Completes Break With Trump and Giuliani.

+ NPR: Trump Broke The Law In Freezing Ukraine Funds, Watchdog Report Concludes.

+ Jonathan Mahler in the NYT Mag addresses one of the more interesting questions of the era: What the hell happened to Rudy Giuliani? The Fog of Rudy. Did he change — or did America? "The real question is perhaps not 'What happened to Rudy?' It's 'What happened to us?' Today, anything seems possible for those who are willing to say and do anything. Watching Giuliani wage his destructively madcap campaigns over the course of the last two years — and continue to wage them, even in the face of the president's impeachment and his own criminal investigation — it has become impossible not to wonder if there are any limits to shamelessness at all." (The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves...")


Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Launder

"While real estate might seem like the world's most local industry, these luxury condos weren't exclusively built for locals. They were also made for foreigners with tens of millions of dollars to spare. Developers bet huge on foreign plutocrats—Russian oligarchs, Chinese moguls, Saudi royalty—looking to buy second (or seventh) homes. ... The confluence of cosmopolitan capital and terrible timing has done the impossible: It's created a vacancy problem in a city where thousands of people are desperate to find places to live." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic: Why Manhattan's Skyscrapers Are Empty.


Expect the Unexpected When You’re Expecting

"On Wednesday, Putin reminded his subjects and the world that he still hasn't lost his touch for creating the kind of spectacle that allows him to fully control the situation while everyone else is busy reacting. While delivering his annual address that's roughly analogous to the State of the Union, Putin announced that he would be changing the constitution again and moving the center of power away from the presidency and toward the Russian parliament, which, during Putin's 20-year-tenure, has turned into a rubber stamp. He also stated that he'd like to get rid of the constitutional provision that limits a president to two consecutive terms." GQ's Julia Ioffe: Why is Putin's Latest Power Grab So Surprising? (Even though it was "exactly what you might have expected.")


Wine in a Box

"For the first time in a quarter of a century, Americans are buying less wine." Is it tariffs, legal weed, or just the need for something a little stronger? Apparently, it's because they're drinking more spiked seltzer. (And my generation thought wine coolers were embarrassing...)

+ For my enjoyment only, let's take this opportunity to watch this old Taxi scene: One word, Selzer.


Bible Trumper

"What a day it promised to be for Christian conservatives, who have witnessed their agenda rise the past three years in a mountain of new policies. On a call with reporters, the White House announced a dozen new rules and guidance memos designed to ensure less regulation and more money flows to religious organizations, churches, and social service providers — while advancing prayer in public schools."

+ "The WA Administration has been made aware of a recent picture, posted on social media, which demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy's beliefs." WaPo: Christian school expels teen after she posed with rainbow birthday cake. (At the risk of being accused of cultural appropriation, Jesus H. Christ, are you kidding me?)

+ Related: Jackie Mason on cake portions at the Carnegie Deli.


Sower Point

"She stoically declares in the commercial, 'I'm not here to be the token female. I'm here to help us win.' Sowers has helped the 49ers collect those wins in droves this season but she's also a revelation whose rise is impossible to ignore." One of the best stories about the 49ers' inevitable run to the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers: 'The 49ers didn't hire me as a coach to make a point'.


I Love You to the Moon and Back

"Applications to become Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa's girlfriend have topped 20,000, streaming service AbemaTV said on Thursday, ahead of its documentary on his search for a "life partner" to take on his moon voyage ... Maezawa, who will be the first private passenger on Elon Musk's SpaceX, has already generated huge social media buzz with a $9 million giveaway to his followers that secured his position as Japan's foremost Twitter celebrity." Reuters: Moonstruck: Japanese billionaire's girlfriend entrants top 20,000. (Cut to a few years from now when someone asks his kid, "So how did your parents meet?")


Bottom of the News

"Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's intervention came hours after the designs became public on Wednesday. Herbert, a Republican, he understands the importance of educating residents about HIV prevention, but he does not approve of using sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign." AP: Utah stops distribution of condoms with cheeky slogans. (We can't have people associating condoms with sex!)

+ Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse. (My dogs look at me like, "No matter what you do, we'll always love you." My cats look at me like, "Your hair is receding and you've definitely gained weight.")

+ Photos from the 2019 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest and from the 2020 Dakar Rally.