February 4th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Vodka Luge, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday.

Since these are a particularly political Olympics, it makes sense that they started off with a political statement. The flame was lit by two people, one of whom is cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang — who was born in the Xinjiang autonomous region. That was intended to torch the diplomatically boycotting Americans who “have repeatedly called out Beijing for its repressive policies toward the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.” Most Americans won’t buy the imagery but, of course, we’re not its key audience. As in America, there are competing realities in the world, and the competition among athletes in cold weather sports is taking place in the increasingly chilly shadow of what could be a new cold war.

While American diplomats are boycotting the games, Vladimir Putin was a guest of honor at the Opening Ceremonies, following his meeting with Xi Jinping. The talks were described by the Kremlin “very warm,” adding, “Friendship between [Russia and China] has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.” In addition, China joined Russia in opposing Nato expansion.

The games are in China, but the real geopolitical battle is taking place on Ukraine’s border. While athletes are curling, dictators are flexing. And no one likes to flex more than Putin. You might wonder why Putin would “attack a neighboring country that has not provoked him? Why would he risk the blood of his own soldiers? Why would he risk sanctions, and perhaps an economic crisis, as a result?” And why would leaders like Xi back his moves? The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum has a great piece on The Reason Putin Would Risk War. “He knows that the political system he helped create is profoundly unfair, that his regime not only runs the country but owns it, making economic and foreign-policy decisions that are designed to benefit the companies from which he and his inner circle personally profit. He knows that the institutions of the state exist not to serve the Russian people, but to steal from them. He knows that this system works very well for a few rich people, but very badly for everyone else. He knows, in other words, that one day, prodemocracy activists of the kind he saw in Dresden might come for him too.” Putin’s Biathlon is Authoritarianism and Kleptocracy. It is a battle against democracy, which is something that hits a little too close to home in American these days.

+ Most Americans probably aren’t particularly interested in Putin’s political moves or Xi’s Xinjiang policies. And for now, they aren’t particularly interested in the Olympics either. In a recent poll, 61% of Americans couldn’t name a single athlete competing (which is weird because Shaun White has been on longer than Law & Order). But that will change as the Games get going. We’ll forget about politics and focus on the entertainment factor. A few moguls won’t distract us from televised sports. The half pipe replace the peace pipe. But don’t feel bad. American corporations are way ahead of you. Wired: Despite Diplomatic Boycott, the US Is Powering the 2022 Olympics. “When it comes to sponsorship and institutional corporate collusion, including in the technology sectors contributing to the surveillance crisis, business does go on as usual.” Like the Winter Olympics, that’s cold.


It’s All Downhill From Here

“The unprecedented move marks the first time the national party has rebuked an incumbent congressional Republican — much less two — with a formal censure backed by its members.” Republican National Committee members voted Friday to formally censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their involvement with the House investigation into the January 6. It’s a truly sad day in American politics when a party punishes its own for seeking the truth about an attack on the republic. It’s shameful. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s Mitt Romney: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.” (Love the words. Wondering why someone would want to be a part of a club they find shameful? Ain’t that a shame?)


Vodka Luge

Boris Johnson, who’s always ready to down a few on Downing Street, never met a party he wanted to diplomatically boycott. His partying, which coincided with his calls for Covid quarantines, has gotten him into a lot of hot water (and I don’t mean afternoon tea). The parties (and the lies about them) may even cost him his job. For Americans, the best person to explain Boris Johnson’s latest lies is probably a fictional newscaster. So here’s the much watch video of the day from Jonathan Pie: The First Thing You Need to Know About Boris Johnson Is He’s a Liar. (NYT Gift Article)


Weekend Whats

What to Comedy: This week I’m sharing two standup routines. The first is an HBO Max show called Trash White from Moses Storm. The show is less standup and more one-person show, and features some absolutely amazing (and informative) childhood stories with video proof. The second is laugh out loud routine from Ronny Chieng on Netflix: Asian Comedian Destroys America.

+ What to Hear: Mitski’s much-anticipated new album is out. You can start with the song Heartbreaker, which can be found in this article: Mitski, the US’s best young songwriter: ‘I’m a black hole where people dump their feelings.’ What a coincidence. I’m America’s best newsletter writer where humanity dumps its bad news.

+ What to NextDraft: A few popular outtakes from this week’s NextDraft: Whoopi Doo, my take on the silly Whoopi Goldberg suspension. In Pod We Trust, on the important part of the Joe Rogan controversy. And, while we’re focused on Jeff Zucker being squeezed out at CNN, we should probably focus on how Zucker and others squeezed all the news out of the place. CNN, News Panels, and the Auto-Fellatioization of Cable News.


Extra, Extra

Bull Rush: “There aren’t more than a handful of kids in South Dakota to whom these sports laws would apply, according to the ACLU of South Dakota’s Jett Jonelis. These bills are solutions in search of a problem that does not exist. These legislators are a problem in search of Kris.” GQ: Kris Wilka Just Wants to Play Football.

+ Pyongyang Show: “I want them to understand that if you come at us, it means some of your infrastructure is going down for a while.” Wired: North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet.

+ Tim Cooks the Books: “Meta’s warning and its cratering stock price were reminders that even among tech giants, Apple holds extraordinary sway because of its control of the iPhone.” Apple Made a Change That Is Hammering Internet Companies Like Meta.

+ Baba Booey: “Agus is not a connector. He’s an attractor. He’s genius Forrest Gump, a soft-spoken and menschy cancer researcher and doctor who can always  be found at the most cutting-edge places. So when powerful people get cancer, he’s the doctor they often come see.” The excellent Joel Stein: Can the World’s Most Connected Doctor Cure Cancer? This guy is connected with the world’s richest men and has his own theme song on Howard Stern.

+ Mattress Cover: “Texas salesman ‘Mattress Mack’ places $4.5 million in bets on Cincinnati Bengals to spring Super Bowl LVI upset.” If he loses, he might have to take to the mattresses.


Feel Good Friday

“‘I went to Jewish schools my whole life, I grew up religious, I keep kosher,’ Turell said. ‘I was like, ‘What are we doing here? I want to go to Yeshiva.’ My parents were kind of shocked because my dream was to play Division I. But I told them, ‘I want to be a Jewish hero.'” (Achievement level unlocked.) NYT: The Nation’s Top Scorer Plays for a School and a People.

+ Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are down in the US as deaths also start to plateau.

+ After days of doom-and-gloom talk about how bad the January jobs numbers would be due to the Omicron variant, they turned out to be, um, great?

+ Book a prize: Idaho library has wait list for story eight-year-old hid on a shelf.

+ Why a school board’s ban on ‘Maus’ may put the book in the hands of more readers.

+ Michigan finalizing plan to build first-ever wireless charging road for electric cars.

+ Kid of the Year Finalist Ethan Hill, 11, on Helping the Homeless: ‘If You See a Problem, Fix It.’

+ Pillow fighting: yes, it’s professional combat sport.

+ And an out of context video clip I have watched ten times already. “I don’t remember who reached out their hand first, if it was me or the monkey…”

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