Wednesday, January 26th, 2022


A Public Disrobing

Stephen is leavin'. In a highly anticipated move, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer is hanging up his robe, presenting an opportunity for President Biden to appoint his first bench warmer to the Court — unless Mitch McConnell figures out a way to block a new pick for the next three years, which is impossible, and yet also seems somehow likely. We can now expect the aggressive Robitusslin to begin, as Justice appointments often make for appointment viewing. But this hasn't always been the Scotus operandi. Like everything else, this process is more polarized than ever. Here's a good overview of Breyer's work on the court from Vox. One of the most interesting takeaways is the manner in which Breyer was chosen. Here's a judicial review: "The story of how Stephen Breyer came to the Court is a reminder of how our politics has changed over the past generation. Nearly three decades ago, Democratic President Bill Clinton and Sen. Orrin Hatch, then the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, had a phone conversation ... Clinton wanted Hatch's thoughts on who he should nominate to replace White. And Hatch — here's the part that is unimaginable in today's Republican Party — offered two entirely reasonable suggestions to the new president."

+ We can expect a fight because in today's America, there's always a fight. And that polarization is damaging democracy. Thomas B Edsell in the NYT (Gift Article): America Has Split. "McCoy and Press studied 52 countries "where democracies reached pernicious levels of polarization." Of those, 'twenty-six — fully half of the cases — experienced a downgrading of their democratic rating. Quite strikingly, the two continue, 'the United States is the only advanced Western democracy to have faced such intense polarization for such an extended period. The United States is in uncharted and very dangerous territory.'"


KGBeing There

"The phrase 'not one inch' is a reference to a statement made by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, in 1990, and in the years since it has taken on the qualities of a geopolitical 'Rashomon' moment. Who promised what to whom? At what cost? ... In a way, the argument boils down to 'not one inch' and its legacy: Did the West, led by the U.S., promise to limit nato expansion eastward? 'At one extreme, there's a position you sometimes hear from the American side, that none of this ever came up, it's a total myth, the Russians are psychotic,' Sarotte said. 'On the other end, you have the very adamant Russian position: ‘We were totally betrayed, there's no doubt about it.' Unsurprisingly, when you get into the evidence, the truth looks to be somewhere in between." The New Yorker's Joshua Yaffa with a really interesting look at The Historical Dispute Behind Russia's Threat to Invade Ukraine.

+ This story, like many others involving Putin, goes back the fall of the Berlin Wall. BBC: Vladimir Putin's formative German years. And Globe and Mail: What Putin learned when the Berlin Wall fell.


Maine Attraction

"The end was as dramatic as the rest of Mr. Martinez's life. As a young man in Harlem, Mr. Martinez rocketed to infamy as one of the flashiest, most successful cocaine dealers during the height of the drug's popularity. His fall, though, was swift: He murdered one of his best friends, expanded his business to Washington, D.C., and by 1991 was arrested and charged in a sweeping drug trafficking case. He would later inform on scores of associates as a federal witness. Now, as the police investigate his murder, they say they are running into an unusual problem: An awful lot of people wanted to see Alpo Martinez dead." Meanwhile, his neighbors from his witness protection days can't believe they were hanging out with a murderer. Ali Watkins in the NYT (Gift Article): He Was in Witness Protection in Maine. But His Harlem Life Kept Calling.


Asterisk and Reward

I was a television sports producer during the heyday of steroids in baseball. I attended a surreal number of baseball games and spent a lot of time in the press box and the locker room. Every reporter was fully aware of the steroid and HGH use. The physical and personality changes for players like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds we're wildly obvious. McGwire soared in size during one off-season and suddenly had acne all over his back (and a much more curt personality). Barry Bonds' head got noticeably larger. He always had a big head, but not physically big. Everyone knew the score and accepted it. Did steroid use skew records and hurt the game? Hell yes. And we sadly need a big old asterisk next to all of the numbers from that era. Even though I'm a lifelong Giants fan, I never liked Barry Bonds and was relieved when he retired. But a baseball Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons? Pitchers used to walk Barry Bonds with THE BASES LOADED. Drew Magary in SF Gate: Barry Bonds' career, good and evil, is a necessary part of baseball history. One that should be documented and put on display.


Extra, Extra

Slice of Life: "We need lines that would force us to talk with each other, that force us to share ideas and understandings. The way these lines are being drawn now, it doesn't compel a person to look outside of their party lines ... With the help of computers, the lines are now being drawn 'where they can be so exact that they can break up a bedroom if they wanted to.'" A good overview of how gerrymandering makes the US House intensely partisan.

+ Shortchanged: "You're progressive in one way but you're still making that backward story of seven dwarves living in the cave." Disney responds to Peter Dinklage's criticism of Snow White remake. "We are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community." (Like what kind of approach could they take?)

+ Face Off: The Atlantic: The Case Against Masks at School. "Districts should rethink imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit." I can't wait until my kids can lose the masks. But in terms of development, I don't think it's bad that they've learned that personal sacrifices have to be made for the community in general, and their elders (including teachers) in particular.


Bottom of the News

"Amy Schneider has known for months that she'd pass Matt Amodio to notch the second-longest winning streak in show history. Her experience keeping that hidden has been bizarre—and mirrors the stories told by other legendary ‘Jeopardy!' champs"

+ Picasso heirs launch digital art piece to ride ‘crypto' wave. (Rube-ism is the new Cubism.)

+ At Beijing Games, hugs discouraged but condoms available.