June 4th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The pen and the sword, NYSE No Evil, and horses as therapy.

Even though I spend several hours a day a writing, I’ve never been a big fan of the adage, The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword (I always picture the sword lopping off the hand that holds the pen and saying, “OK, your move.”) But there’s no denying the power of the pen in the hand of someone who’s spent a lifetime wielding a sword; which is a long way of saying that James Mattis has finally broken his silence on Trump. Many wish he had done this a lot sooner, but that only makes the fact that he’s doing it now an indicator of how dire the situation has become. And when his pen did hit paper, it did so with the force of a bunker buster (hitting a bunker that was just being inspected by the president). “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside … Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

+ Don’t take my word for it when it comes to the seriousness of the moment. Take the word of John R Allen, a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general, and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan: “The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020. Remember the date. It may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment. The president of the United States stood in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday, railed against weak governors and mayors who were not doing enough, in his mind, to control the unrest and the rioters in their cities, and threatened to deploy the U.S. military against American citizens. It was a stunning moment.” A Moment of National Shame and Peril—and Hope.

+ These military men see what many analysts have seen for three plus years. The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen explains: “Whether or not he is capable of grasping the concept, Trump is performing fascism.” And now that he’s increasingly cornered, electorally and internationally; and being publicly admonished by the leaders of the tough guy club in which he fantasizes himself a member, the performance is going to become a lot more extreme. James Mattis holds the ethical high ground, but he may have to cede his nickname: Mad Dog.


William Shakes Spear

“It’s been a controversial move, even within Barr’s own department. One federal prosecutor called Barr’s most high-profile effort to quell the unrest ‘politically-charged [and] bogus.’ A senior law enforcement official called it ‘a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.'” The military may be hesitant to aim its force against US citizens. Bill Barr is cool with it though. Bill Barr Takes Charge of Trump’s Crackdown as the Military Tries to Back Away.

+ And Barr, it seems, has his own force in the fight. Philip Bump in WaPo: “Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible.”


NYSE No Evil

“Rising earnings. Economic growth. Bargains. A lot of the stuff investors were thought to cherish has been in short supply in the rally that has swept markets since March.” Bloomberg: The Things That Used to Matter to Stock Investors Don’t Anymore.

+ “In the time that U.S. deaths have increased from 100 to more than 100,000, the S&P 500 has gone up 20 percent.” Three Reasons Stocks Are Rising. Let’s hope we don’t have to add a forth reason: Investors have gone cray cray…

+ And Buzzfeed on the great divide. There’s A Boom In Homebuying As Unemployment Soars. “Forty-two million people have filed for unemployment. But last week applications for mortgages on new homes were up 17.5% compared to a year ago.”


The Protest Test

“Last month, we debated how far the virus could travel when we speak loudly, and how close together tables at restaurants should be; this month, we may learn how much virus is expelled from the nose and mouth when pepper spray irritates the lungs.” The New Yorker: How the Protests Have Changed the Pandemic.

+ “The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing, the administration not in agreement.” And that’s just for starters. NYT: The C.D.C. Waited ‘Its Entire Existence for This Moment.’ What Went Wrong?


Carbon Appetit

“Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they’ve been in human history, and likely the highest in 3 million years. The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, global average surface temperatures were significantly warmer than they are today, and sea levels were 50 to 80 feet higher.” WaPo: Earth’s carbon dioxide levels hit record high, despite coronavirus-related emissions drop.


A View to a Kill

“White police officers and their black colleagues have starkly different views on fundamental questions regarding the situation of blacks in American society, the 2016 survey found. For example, nearly all white officers (92%) – but only 29% of their black colleagues – said the U.S. had made the changes needed to assure equal rights for blacks.” That’s just one of several interesting stats in Pew’s look at 10 things we know about race and policing in the US.

+ Vox: How to reform American police, according to experts.

+ Data shows that 8 key policies can dramatically decrease the number of violent police encounters. How is your city doing when it comes to implementing them?

+ Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Cutting $100 Million-$150 Million From LAPD Budget, Funds To Be Reinvested In Communities Of Color.


Hopes Fade

“He had been hoping the restrictions would be lifted soon and he could reopen the Fade Factory. Then, sometime late Saturday, someone broke into the shop, poured some kind of dark liquid on the floor and lit the place on fire.” NPR: ‘I Didn’t Deserve It’: Pandemic Shut Down His Barbershop, Then A Fire Destroyed It. (He didn’t deserve the looting and fires. But he did deserve the Go Fund Me Campaign.)


Horse Sense

“Recently, wellness professionals have begun harnessing that bond for another purpose: helping us heal. A wide range of equine-assisted activities — incorporating riding, life coaching, and psychotherapy — are gaining recognition as effective tools for processing emotions, catalyzing change, and treating physical and mental health conditions.” The Saturday Evening Post: The Horse Listeners. (I like to combine equine and talk therapy by watching Mr Ed.)


The Toad Not Taken

“A p-rn star has been arrested on manslaughter charges following a man’s death during a mystic ritual in which he inhaled psychedelic toad venom, Spanish police said Wednesday … Local press said the ceremony took place in the country residence of Vidal, a media-savvy p-rn star in his mid-40s whose Twitter feed is full of ads for his 25-centimeter aromatic candles of the male genitalia, available in black, white or cerise.” (I just googled how many inches there are in 25cms and now I need a hit of toad venom.)


Feel Good Thursday

A press conference by Scott Morrison announcing a new stimulus package was interrupted by a homeowner who wanted people off his newly reseeded lawn. (This is the greatest get off my lawn moment of all time.)

+ The dude who built a hummingbird feeder helmet.

+ 17-year-old Mission District teen leads protest of thousands in San Francisco. And a 16-year-old is being praised for leading peaceful protests in Detroit.

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