Monday, April 18th, 2022


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Note: I'll be Spring Breaking with my son this week. Delivery will be sporadic. And don't forget to join me at the SF Commonwealth Club tonight (online or in-person).

Over the past few months, every American has given more thought than usual to the possibility of a nuclear conflict. That's especially true for Ed and Pam Butcher, who, because of their proximity to a Minuteman III missile, think about it every day. "Ed's family had been on this land since his grandparents homesteaded here in 1913, but rarely had life on the ranch felt so precarious ... 'I wonder sometimes what else could go wrong,' Ed said, as he looked over a hill toward the west end of their ranch, where an active U.S. government nuclear missile was buried just beneath the cow pasture." The Butchers have had a missile launch site on their Montana property since the Cold War, and they're not alone. "About 400 of those missiles remain active and ready to launch at a few seconds notice in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. They are located on bison preserves and Indian reservations. They sit across from a national forest, behind a rodeo grandstand, down the road from a one-room schoolhouse, and on dozens of private farms." WaPo's always excellent Eli Saslow (Gift Article): What it's like to live with a bomb stronger than 20 Hiroshimas in a time of rising worldwide tensions. "An Air Force team is stationed in an underground bunker a few miles away, ready to fire the missile at any moment if the order comes. It would tear out of the silo in about 3.4 seconds and climb above the ranch at 10,000 feet per second. It was designed to rise 70 miles above Earth, fly across the world in 25 minutes and detonate within a few hundred yards of its target. The ensuing fireball would vaporize every person and every structure within a half-mile. The blast would flatten buildings across a five-mile radius. Secondary fires and fatal doses of radiation would spread over dozens more miles, resulting in what U.S. military experts have referred to as 'total nuclear annihilation.'" (It turns out that, give or take a couple expletives, non-experts call it the exact same thing.)


Don’t Do the Slime if You Can’t Do the Time

Ketanji Brown Jackson was able to overcome the attacks hurled at her during her hearings and secure a Supreme Court seat. But as The New Yorker's Jane Mayer explains, "the fierce campaign against her was concerning, in part because it was spearheaded by a new conservative dark-money group that was created in 2020: the American Accountability Foundation. An explicit purpose of the A.A.F.—a politically active, tax-exempt nonprofit charity that doesn't disclose its backers—is to prevent the approval of all Biden Administration nominees." We're not just talking about the big names and the top positions. They're going after everyone. That slows down democracy. It makes it less likely that decent people would want to work in government. And it serves no purpose other than to hurt the other party (and the country by extension). All it takes is money. So who is providing the money? "The A.A.F. describes itself as a champion of transparency, but it declines to reveal the sources of its funding. Its official mailing address is a handsome historic building a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. But when I stopped by there recently, to ask for the group's basic financial records—which all tax-exempt nonprofits are legally required to produce—a woman at the lobby's front desk said there was no such group at that address." The Slime Machine Targeting Dozens of Biden Nominees.


Fly By Night Ruling

A federal judge in ______ who was appointed by President _____ just struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for airplanes and other public transport methods. This one is so obvious, you can fill in the blanks. A million deaths in and we're still debating masks.


The Customer is Not Always Right

"A fighter jet might see a target for 20 minutes. We had to watch a target for days, weeks and even months. We saw him play with his kids. We saw him interact with his family. We watched his whole life unfold. You are remote but also very much connected. Then one day, when all parameters are met, you kill him. Then you watch the death. You see the remorse and the burial. People often think that this job is going to be like a video game, and I have to warn them, there is no reset button." Dave Philipps in the NYT (Gift Article) on the peculiar experiences of military drone pilots. The Unseen Scars of Those Who Kill via Remote Control. "In the Air Force, drone pilots did not pick the targets. That was the job of someone pilots called 'the customer.' The customer might be a conventional ground force commander, the C.I.A. or a classified Special Operations strike cell. It did not matter. The customer got what the customer wanted. And sometimes what the customer wanted did not seem right. There were missile strikes so hasty that they hit women and children, attacks built on such flimsy intelligence that they made targets of ordinary villagers, and classified rules of engagement that allowed the customer to knowingly kill up to 20 civilians when taking out an enemy."


Extra, Extra

Under the Rubble: "The western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which has so far been largely unscathed by the war, has recorded its first civilian deaths after Russian strikes, officials say. At least seven people were killed and 11 injured in the early morning attack on Monday, the city's mayor said, warning that the death toll could rise as emergency services clear through the rubble." While it's true that Putin's mass murder campaign has not gone according to plan, it's also true that he shows no signs of letting up. More troops are pouring in and new cities are being targeted. Meanwhile, "one of the restaurant partners of the World Central Kitchen was struck on Saturday, according to the nonprofit kitchen's CEO Nate Mook, who confirmed the news on Twitter. He said four staff members had been injured in the blast." CNN: Celebrity chef's Ukraine charity kitchen destroyed by Russian missile. (At this point, we should stop referring to Jose Andres as a celebrity chef and start referring to him as an international hero.) Here's the latest from BBC.

+ Atrocity State: "Civilian deaths and crimes committed by soldiers figure into every war ... In Russia, however, such acts are rarely investigated or even acknowledged, let alone punished. That leaves it unclear how much the low-level brutality stems from the intent of those in charge or whether commanders failed to control their troops. Combined with the apparent strategy of bombing civilian targets, many observers conclude that the Russian government — and, perhaps, a part of Russian society — in reality condones violence against civilians." NYT: Atrocities in Ukraine War Have Deep Roots in Russian Military.

+ Tex and Balances: "An investigation by ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and The Marshall Project last month revealed that the numbers the state reported to demonstrate Operation Lone Star's success have included arrests that had nothing to do with the border or immigration and drug seizures from across the state made by troopers stationed in targeted counties prior to the operation." Texans Spend Billions on Border Operations. What Do They Get in Return? (Just what they wanted. Political gains.)

+ Calculated Move Florida rejects 41% of new math textbooks, citing critical race theory among its reasons. And in Michigan, a kindergartner brought tequila to school and shared it with classmates. (If it happened in Florida, they'd punish the kid for bringing too much Latino culture into the building.)

+ Sidd Finch is Real: "Two Sundays ago, Sasaki threw the first perfect game in Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan's top league) since 1994. In his very next start this past Sunday, he threw eight more perfect innings." And he only stopped because he was taken out of the game.

+ A Reptile Dysfunction: 4 Men Gang-Raped, Killed and Ate a Protected Monitor Lizard. "I have never seen a crime like this before,' division forest officer Vishal Mali told VICE World News. 'The men are in their 20s and 30s, and they appear to have done it for fun. There was no religious or black magic agenda." (Does that make it better or worse? Seriously, what do you say to your cell mate when he asks, "So, what are you in for?")


Bottom of the News

What does it take to get your face on currency? Being a national leader can help. Interestingly, being a really famous author can give you a decent shot. Sadly, it helps to no longer be alive. An interesting look at banknotes. Who's in Your Wallet?

+ "A Kentucky jury has awarded a man $450,000 who sued his employer after he asked them not to celebrate his birthday at work — and they did it anyway." This seems like it could be from season 2 of Severance.