Friday, May 13th, 2022


The Waitstaff

"Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?" That was Trump asking Mark Esper about shooting peaceful American protestors who were protesting racial injustice outside the White House. According to Esper's book, Trump also asked about bombing Mexican drug labs: "We could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly. No one would know it was us." These are just a couple of the many, many troubling things we've learned about Trump's time in office. The details come out in dribs and drabs, usually timed to promote a book release. It's clear that some folks in the administration had to keep Trump's madness on the down-low so they could prevent him from acting on it while they held their positions. But what about after they resigned or were removed? As Tom Nichols explains, they had a duty to speak up before their book deals. "Esper, Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and many, many other people who crawled through the Shawshank sewer pipe that was the four years of the Trump administration needed to speak up the minute they were out. Instead, they teased their book bombshells or played coy games of slap and tickle on cable outlets. Sitting on crucial information about whether the president himself is a menace to the security of the United States—hello, John Bolton—is bad enough. But there is an assumption that undergirds this reticence that is shared by both former officials and the public, one that is inimical to our democracy: The officials who have not spoken up (even without a book deal) have been silent because they somehow seem to believe that things will just work out."

Maybe a similar argument can be made when it comes to reporters who hold bombshells for books. I wrote about Bob Woodward's decision to wait until his book Rage came out (months after he interviewed Trump) before letting Americans know that Trump knew full well how deadly Covid was and how it was spread. From Please Scream Inside Your Heart. "The excerpt from the Woodward book brought up an interesting debate about whether Bob Woodward should have spilled the details of his February interview with Trump the second he learned that the president was lying about a threat that would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. It would have broken his agreement with the administration (the president understood these interviews were for a book and not for immediate publication) and could have impacted the access afforded to Woodward and future authors. So one can understand why Woodward would hold the information for the book . . . if this were an ordinary moment in history and an ordinary president. But neither was ordinary." Or as Nichols suggests above: This is not an era of norms when we should all believe things will just work out.


Life Imitating Art

"Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid's Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?" Margaret Atwood in The Atlantic: I Invented Gilead. The Supreme Court Is Making It Real. "It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not 'deeply rooted' in our 'history and tradition.' True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women's reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all."

+ Texas can launch more investigations into families of trans kids, state Supreme Court says.


Oil Riggings

Apple has been one of the better performing stocks during this dramatic tech downturn. But it's still been dethroned as world's most valuable company by oil giant Saudi Aramco. If that surprises you, then you haven't been paying attention. The largest oil and gas producers made close to $100bn in first quarter of 2022.


Weekend Whats

What to Hear: It's a good day for music releases. First, you get to dig into Kendrick Lamar's new double-album, Mr Morale and the Big Steppers. Then you get to dance the night away with Florence and the Machine's Dance Fever.

+ What to Watch: This seems like the right year to jump on the Eurovision bandwagon. Ukraine is the favorite to win. Here's your guide to Eurovision 2022.

+ What to Read: "She assigned essays to defendants so that the court could understand their hardships and kept people out of jail through alternative sentencing and nonprofit partnerships. She became the judge of second chances, because she knew too few get a first one." Judge Victoria Pratt transformed her courtroom by adding common decency into the experience. And it worked. This is her book on The Power of Dignity: How Transforming Justice Can Heal Our Communities.


Extra, Extra

To Dye For: "The shutdown of the facility in Shanghai in April halted production of contrast media, an iodine solution that medical staff inject into blood vessels to allow a device such as a CT scanner or fluoroscope to see inside the body. Contrast media, also known as dye, is used virtually every hour in hospitals across the country to help measure arterial blockages around the heart, guide placement of stents in catheter labs, diagnose and treat strokes, and more." WaPo with a story that hammers home just how connected we all are. Covid shutdowns in China are delaying medical scans in the U.S.

+ More Time, Horrible Timing: "A Russian court has extended the pretrial detention of US basketball star Brittney Griner -- held since February on accusations of drug smuggling -- by another month."

+ The Whole Nine: "The Nasdaq is down 30 percent. Growth stocks and pandemic darlings such as Peloton and Zoom have crashed more than twice that amount. Hedge funds that backed these growth stocks, including Ark and Tiger Global, have been crushed. If you look at your 401(k), you'll see that … no, scratch that, you should under no circumstances look at your 401(k)." Derek Thompson with Nine Worrying Signs About the Economy. (Bursting into tears every time I look at my portfolio is all the sign I need...)

+ Pablo Cruise: "The glimpse of a possible Picasso in the home of Imelda Marcos seen during a visit by her son, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr, after his election win has set off a flurry of speculation in the Philippines, where the family that once plundered billions is set to return to power." Speculation? Come on. If the 2,700 pairs of shoes fit...

+ Dead End: "Israeli police on Friday moved in on a crowd of mourners at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, beating demonstrators with batons and causing pallbearers to briefly drop the casket." Israeli police beat mourners at a slain Al Jazeera journalist's funeral.

+ Elon Makes Me Yawn: "If Musk really needs details supporting that calculation, then why not privately ask the management team with which he's barely had any contact? Or the board? And then, if the numbers don't check out, walk away. Maybe he'd even have been able to get out of his $1 billion breakup fee, arguing that Twitter misrepresented user metrics. He also could have conducted due diligence before agreeing to buy the company, which sources say is something acquirers sometimes do." Axios: Elon Musk's Twitter clown car. (Let's hope it's at least an electric clown car.)

+ Acid Reflex: "First, I took an acid trip. Then I asked scientists about the power of altered states." Matthew Hutson in The New Yorker: How I Started to See Trees as Smart. (This is not that far from how I came to view headline puns as high art.)


Feel Good Friday

"The Stanley Cup playoff beard has been an NHL tradition since the early 1980s, when the shaggy New York Islanders won four straight championships. It represents the players' singular focus, as if even personal hygiene is sacrificed in pursuit of hockey's holy grail. It suggests the rugged doggedness that's synonymous with the NHL's postseason tournament, with its grueling series and marathon overtimes. Here's a look at the best beards to watch for in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, the next generation of bushy beauties and the greatest facial forests in NHL postseason history. As Joe Thornton, playoff beard GOAT once said: "It looks pretty. But it's hard work." ESPN: Playoff Beards: Hockey's Wackiest Tradition.

+ "Personally, I have struggled my whole life with not being heard or accepted. A story on the front page of our local newspaper reported how the principal at my high school told a staff member, 'The retard can't be valedictorian.' Yet today, here I stand. Each day, I choose to celebrate small victories, and today, I am celebrating a big victory with all of you." Nonspeaking student with autism gives moving commencement speech.

+ This is Spinal Tap sequel in the works with original team attached.

+ Scientists Make Paper Durable Like Plastic, Without the Pollution.

+ Parkinson's disease symptoms 'reversed' by mini implant, trial suggests.

+ Over the past three decades Ara Mirzaian has fitted braces for everyone from Paralympians to children with scoliosis. But Msituni was a patient like none other — a newborn giraffe.

+ Lhakpa Sherpa: Woman climbs Everest for record tenth time.

+ Phillip Island's little penguins set record as 5,000 cross beach in 'really unique' event. (I have five pets, which is too many. Yet, I'm now thinking of getting a few hundred little penguins.)

+ And if you missed the feel good story of the passenger who turned into a pilot on the fly, here it is. Gonna Fly Now.