Friday, December 10th, 2021


Dollars and Sensimilla

Prices are high. Driven primarily by food and energy prices, supply chain slowdowns, and consumers spending stimulus money in tighter product markets, inflation is red hot, soaring to 6.8% in November, the highest in nearly four decades. The trend is particularly hurting people at the lower end of the spending spectrum. Even the Dollar Tree recently raised its average price to $1.25.

+ "Gas is up 58 percent over the last year. Beef is 21 percent pricier, too. And the cost of heating your home with fuel oil is going to cost 59 percent more than it did last holiday season." NY Mag: Everything's Getting More Expensive. Here's What You Can Blame It On.

+ A lot of our economic future will depend on whether this trend is a pandemic-related blip or part of a longer story. For now, the inflation is just part of an economy that's showing many signs it's blowing up. "Based on the data, President Biden and the Democratic Congress are set to preside over the strongest two-year performance on growth, jobs, and income in decades—so long as the current cycle of inflation eases, and the Omicron variant does not trigger another round of shutdowns." And in 2022, companies plan to give biggest raises in more than a decade.


Democracy Slides

Before refusing to cooperate with the Jan 6 commission, Mark Meadows handed over a trove of documentation. It's damning stuff. The slides from one presentation detail "a conspiracy theory-laden plan for Vice President Pence to install Republican electors in states 'where fraud occurred,' and for Trump to declare a national emergency and for all electronic voting to be rendered invalid, citing foreign 'control' of electronic voting systems." This should be a top story at every news site, but it's not. Steve Bannon famously explained that "the real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit." Well, it's working.


Weekend Whats

What to Dog: Jane Campion's latest movie, The Power of the Dog, is a well-acted, often beautiful western starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Jesse Plemons, and it's really good. On one hand, you should watch it in a theater for the expansive cinematography. On the other hand, you should watch it on Netflix because it's a slow burn and those are often best experienced from a couch. After you watch that, why not read Don Winslow's epic and awesome cartel trilogy starting with the first book, The Power of the Dog?

+ What to Rock: I usually love the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and the 2021 show on HBO had many highlights and good performances from an eclectic mix of inductees.


Flash Driver

"Criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers." There's a bit of a smash and grab epidemic growing across America, and big retailers are in part blaming internet sites that give thieves and easy way to move stolen goods. WaPo (Gift Article): Retail CEOs say online marketplaces are fueling ‘flash mob' robberies. They want Congress to step in.


Tex Vex

"In effect, the justices allowed the abortion providers' challenges to go ahead against Texas' licensing officials – but not against anyone else. The law remains in place as these challenges play out." Supreme Court refuses to block Texas abortion law as legal fights move forward.


Box Set

"In a remote part of Australia, a steel vault about the size of a school bus will record the Earth's warming weather patterns. It will listen to what we say and do. It will create an archive that could be critical to piecing together the missteps, its creators say, should humanity be destroyed by climate change." NYT (Gift Article): Earth Is Getting a ‘Black Box' to Hold Humans Accountable for Climate Change. (Alternate plan: How about if a bunch of us move into the black box?)


Afghanistand Off

"The debates and decisions in Washington, Kabul, and Doha that preceded the Islamic Republic's fall took place largely in private. Hundreds of pages of meeting notes, transcripts, memoranda, e-mails, and documents, as well as extensive interviews with Afghan and American officials, present a dispiriting record of misjudgment, hubris, and delusion from the very start." Steve Coll and Adam Entous dig in for The New Yorker: The Secret History of the U.S. Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan. "A trove of unreleased documents reveals a dispiriting record of misjudgment, hubris, and delusion that led to the fall of the Western-backed government." Misjudgment, hubris, and delusion. An all-too-familiar hat trick.


The Yellow Brick Road

"It found that the market for secondhand Lego rises in value by 11% annually, which it says is a faster and better rate of return than gold, stocks, bonds, stamps and wine." Investing in Lego more lucrative than gold, study suggests. (I'm sticking with gold.)


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Each year around this time, Alan Taylor puts together an excellent photo essay on the year we just experienced. From The Atlantic, here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Feel Good Friday

"Barriers to aid are as old as aid itself, and they exist for reasons as varied as concerns about fraud, the bureaucratic tension between accuracy and speed, and hostility toward people in need. But the perils of red tape have drawn new attention since the coronavirus pandemic left millions of Americans seeking government help, many for the first time." NYT (Gift Article): How Tech Is Helping Poor People Get Government Aid. "Jimmy Chen graduated from Stanford, worked at Facebook and left for a fellowship, hoping to produce software for people in poverty. His start-up, Propel, offers a free app that five million households use to manage their food stamp benefits."

+ WaPo: Two teens went missing 21 years ago. A scuba-diving YouTuber solved the cold case.

+ Five miles of Northern California coastline to be bought by San Francisco environmental group.

+ More liquor stores in Oakland are selling fresh produce. (And it's selling out).

+ With just 75 cents and a smartphone, you can now trade crypto in Indonesia.

+ Chicago 7-year-old raises money for hospital's pandemic gear.

+ A Dunkin' Donuts employee in Ohio received the surprise of a lifetime from one loyal customer: a fully furnished home. (Damn, I thought of myself as a good tipper.)