Wednesday, April 13th, 2022


The Inflation Diet

"The costs of production, including diesel fuel for machinery and wages for farmworkers, have gone up, and the industry has become increasingly reliant on H-2A visas to bring in foreign farmworkers, which is a more expensive labor force ... 'We can either import our food or we can import workers because it's getting very difficult to farm in the United States with the scarcity of labor,' said Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange. 'So if we want to keep producing food in this country, there's got to be a way to access that workforce.'" Among the other items on your burger, the tomato is relatively innocent. It's only 1.7% more expensive than it was last year at this time. Looking for somewhere to cast the blame? Try the bun or the avocado for starters. Meanwhile, it takes more cheddar to get cheese, a lot of lettuce to afford lettuce, and you better bring home the bacon if you plan to bring home a bacon burger. Politico: This cheeseburger explains your bigger grocery bill.

+ CNBC: Rising inflation has made it more expensive to eat at home—here's how much grocery prices have increased.

+ Reminder: I'll be in conversation with DJ Patil (America's first chief data scientist) on Monday the 18th in San Francisco. Locals should come in person and out of towners can join online. (Attendees should refrain from throwing tomatoes. It's not worth the money.)


Sticks and Stones and Words

There's little doubt that Putin's wanton, unprovoked attack on civilians adds up to a war crime. But is it, as Joe Biden has now stated, genocide? "Not every act of violence against civilians qualifies as an act of genocide — nor does every such act motivated by racial, national, or religious hatred. Instead, it is an act of genocide when it is part of a plan to 'destroy' the target group — that is, to annihilate not just individual members but the group as a collective. In the Russian case, establishing that Russian soldiers intentionally killed Ukrainian civilians is not enough to prove genocide. It wouldn't even be enough if the soldiers said they did it because they hated Ukrainians. Instead, you would need to show that the killings were part of an intentional effort to wipe out the Ukrainian people."

+ Whether it fits the definition of genocide or not, it's bad. Really bad, And the international court is on the scene. "We have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are being committed." Meanwhile, Joe Biden spoke with Zelensky on Wednesday and again received a request for more heavy weaponry. Here's the latest from BBC.

+ In The Atlantic, Eliot A. Cohen explains why this is the war's decisive moment. "Russia's sheer brutality and utterly unwarranted aggression, compounded by lies at once sinister and ludicrous, have endangered what remains of the global order and the norms of interstate conduct. If such behavior leads to humiliation on the battlefield and economic chaos at home, those norms may be rebuilt to some degree; if Vladimir Putin's government gets away with it, restoring them will take a generation or longer ... Putin will order offensives that, if confronted by a well-resourced Ukrainian foe, can effectively destroy his own army. The challenge for the West is to ensure that this is its fate ... The Obama administration, many of whose veterans serve in this White House, failed wretchedly when it declared a red line over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then walked away from it. Ukrainians and Syrians alike have paid cruelly for that pusillanimity ... The moment requires a bit of Shakespeare's Henry V, but what has been on display has been too much of Beckett's Waiting for Godot."


The Chide and Groom

"What these bills communicate coyly, its supporters in media and politics have been saying out loud for quite some time: The way to win back lost ground in the culture war over LGBTQ people is to cast them as morally corrupt villains — and use schools as a starting point for a bigger cultural shift." Bingo. It's all politics. And it's sick how well the strategy still works. Why anti-LGBTQ laws and accusations of 'grooming' children seem to be everywhere now.

+ "References to a gay relationship in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore were edited out of the movie by Warner Bros for the film's release in China. (It's a slippery slope. One day you're editing out gay references for China. The next day you're doing it for Florida.)


Subway Shooter Arrested

"An intensive hunt was underway for James, who police say is responsible for Tuesday's attack. Two law enforcement officials told CNN that the gun evidence was the turning point in elevating him from a person of interest to a suspect. The subway attack left 29 people injured, including 10 who were shot." A sigh of relief in New York as the Brooklyn subway shooting suspect is arrested.


Extra, Extra

Mourning in America: "Deaths from COVID have been unexpected, untimely, particularly painful, and, in many cases, preventable." Those are factors that tend to make the grieving process more powerful and prolonged. Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The Pandemic Has Trapped Millions in Unending Grief. And from AP: A million empty spaces: Chronicling COVID's cruel US toll. So let's try to be decent to one another upon learning that the CDC has extended the travel mask requirement to May 3 as COVID rises.

+ Tex and Balances: "Mexican truck drivers blockaded bridges at the U.S. border for a second day on Tuesday to protest an order by the Texas governor meant to increase safety inspections that has snarled traffic and led business groups to warn of supply chain disruptions." Inflation is up, supply chains are sucking wind, so it seems like a great time for Texas Gov Greg Abbott to play politics with inspections at the border.

+ Plus Signs: "CNN sought to make a huge splash with CNN Plus, luring big-name talent from rival news networks, such as Kasie Hunt from NBC News and Chris Wallace from Fox News. But there is broad skepticism whether there's enough demand to sustain a stand-alone news streaming service, with entertainment-first options dominating the landscape. Disney Plus, for instance, posted more than 10 million subscribers on its first day." CNN Plus is currently drawing fewer than 10,000 daily viewers.

+ Who's on First? When she took her spot near first base, San Francisco Giants' Alyssa Nakken, 31, made major league history as the first woman to coach on field in regular-season game.


Bottom of the News

"Brady's change of heart was the result of a fascinating fall of dominos involving the Miami Dolphins, Sean Payton, Brian Flores's lawsuit, former Patriots offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, and a Manchester United soccer match. If Brady had his way, he would have been running — and potentially quarterbacking — one of the Patriots' division rivals. Instead, a series of unforeseen events led him back to Tampa." A secret plan, a bombshell lawsuit, and a soccer match: Inside Tom Brady's un-retirement. (Bottom line: Don't believe what you read on Twitter. Even when it comes straight from the source.)

+ "The bear has been a regular visitor to the town and became a social media star after breaking into a bakery in Roccaraso last November and eating a batch of freshly-made biscuits. The break-in led to him being captured and banished to a remote area in the mountains, but he was soon back, leading to a second capture in early March and a period in the enclosure." Bear famous for Italian bakery break-in reappears after attempt to rewild him. (As we all know, carbs are a hell of a draw...)