Wednesday, January 12th, 2022


Strength Is Not My Weakness

Dan Hampton, former defensive tackle during the Chicago Bears heyday, famously said, "Strength has never been my weakness." The kids on my high school football team loved that quote and some of us still repeat it to this day. I was reminded of that line when I listened to this week's NPR interview, which Donald Trump ended abruptly after he was pressed on the falsehoods that underpin his Big Lie about election fraud. When Trump was presented with facts associated with his claims, he railed, flailed, and ultimately failed, hanging up several minutes before the interview was scheduled to end.

Your first reaction to this failure, aside from wondering what the hell Donald Trump would be doing on NPR, might be to wonder why anyone in America would be falling for a lie that its originator can't even defend under light questioning. But here's another angle to consider. Many of Trump's backers like him precisely because of his failure to come up with the right answers. After all, in today's America, being vociferously wrong is a pretty relatable characteristic. Maybe just yelling over the person with the right answer or being able to stop midway during a test for which you are unprepared is exactly what many people wish they had the power to do. Consider the Dan Hampton quote, reworked for Trump: "Weakness has never been my weakness."

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie Breaking Away, the character Cyril played by Daniel Stern explains to his friend how his dad loves to be understanding whenever he fails, and then explains that maybe he'll take the college entry exam and flunk it because, "My dad's got a birthday coming up." While one part of America sees Donald Trump's errors and failures as pathetic, another part sees them as the gift that keeps on giving.


How the Cookie Crumbles

"Nicole Pomije, a bakery owner in Minnesota, said she is increasing prices for her cookies because of surging costs for butter and other ingredients. Her basic cookies were priced at 99 cents each, while premium versions such as white chocolate were selling for $1.50 each. But Pomije said she will have to bump up the prices of her basic cookies to the premium price. 'We have to make money,' she said. 'We are a business. We don't want to lose our customers. But I think we might.'" Pomije is not alone. US inflation soared 7% in past year, the most since 1982. Gas prices are way up. The chip shortage is sending car prices through the roof (if you can even find a new car). And omicron, weather, and supply chain issues are conspiring to make everything else more expensive. Interestingly, the price of bacon is up by 19% and the price of fresh vegetables is only up by 2.4%. Might be good time for a health kick.



Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the FDA: "I think it's hard to process what's actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get [covid]." So what do we do about it? We try to slow the spread with masks and vaccinations. As Woodcock adds: "What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, other essential services are not disrupted while this happen." Vaxing and masking has always been as much about our communities as ourselves.

+ Since implementing its vaccine mandate, United has gone 8 weeks without a single employee death. Friendly Skies beats Deadly Lies.

+ Ed Yong in The Atlantic: COVID Hospitalization Numbers Are as Bad as They Look.

+ Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in Britain, US.

+ Kids' low COVID-19 vaccination rates called a 'gut punch.'

+ And in the saga that won't quit saga-ing, Novax Djokovic admits breaking isolation while Covid positive. (I were a betting man, I'd bet that Novax didn't break isolation while positive, but instead faked a positive result to get out Australia's vaccination requirement.) And from a Aussie TV hot mic, a little bit of accurate reporting.


Children of the Mourn

"All of them were killed in an epidemic unique to the United States, where, on average, at least one child is shot every hour of every day. Many survive, but many others do not. In the nation's capital, nine children were killed in gun homicides last year. In Los Angeles, 11 were fatally shot. In Philadelphia: 36. In Chicago: 59. Those figures don't include the hundreds of other kids who died in accidental shootings and by suicide." WaPo (Gift Article) on America's other epidemic. In America, a child is shot every hour, and hundreds die. Here are 13 young lives lost in 2021.

+ The Atlantic: The Data Are Pointing to One Major Driver of America's Murder Spike. (Hint: It's pointing towards something you never want pointed at you.)


Extra, Extra

There crazy athletic achievements, and then there are CRAZY athletic achievements. A forty year-old running around a track in Tel Aviv just qualified for the latter category. Seriously, I can't even believe I'm typing this: How Aleksandr Sorokin Ran 100 Miles at a 6:31-Mile Pace.

+ In a graduation address, Toni Morrison once listed the ten steps that lead towards fascism. Read the list, but make sure you have a spotter for your jaw, because it's gonna drop. (And consider that today, many local school boards are trying to ban Morrison's books.)

+ "Highways that cut through wild areas present a daunting barrier for local wildlife. In Washington State, the Olympic Cougar Project—a partnership between a coalition of Native American tribes and the Washington State Department of Transportation—is studying the movements of cougars as they wander through parts of the Olympic Peninsula." Cool photo series from InFocus: Tracking Cougars to Figure Out Where to Build a Bridge. (I'm working a similar project at my house: Tracking three cats, two beagles, and two kids to figure out where to find five minutes to myself.)

+ SAG Awards 2022: The Full List of Nominees and the snubs and surprises.


Bottom of the News

"Dak Prescott is in your Econ class and always comes in straight from practice and doesn't bring a single thing but a milk jug repurposed into a water bottle. Always asks you for a pen and a sheet of loose leaf paper. Nicest guy you've ever met in your life." ... Ryan Fitzpatrick wears a tshirt that says 'GAME OVER' to the brunch the morning after his wedding. Switches to liquor at 11:48 am." Sarah York with a funny Twitter thread: NFL quarterbacks and what kinda guy they seem like.

+ Thomas Edison's interview technique involved watching people eat soup.

+ Conscripts in Norway have been ordered to return their underwear, bras and socks after the end of their military service so that the next group of recruits can use them.

+ As I mentioned, I'm trying some different formats and lengths for NextDraft this week. Let me know what you think. Other ideas (other than reusing someone else's underwear) welcome. Thanks for the hundreds of responses so far. I should note these tweaks have nothing to do with workload or time-spent. Just trying to make the product better.