Friday, September 30th, 2022


The Hate You Give

When freedom-focused protests like the one taking place in Iran erupt, we feel inspired and energized. And there was a period when protests like these had a decent chance of having a positive impact. Consider the fact that "by the early 2000s, two in three protest movements demanding systemic change ultimately succeeded." But, sadly, times have changed. Social media is part of the story. So are rising nationalist attitudes. But there's another factor that Americans would be wise to note: polarization. "Polarized societies, in moments of turmoil, become likelier to split over mass protests. This can bolster even despised governments, helping them to cast protesters as representing a narrow interest group rather than the citizenry as a whole." The more we hate each other, the more susceptible we are to minority rule, which is why so many political leaders are determined to divide us. It's in their interest. They can only succeed when citizens view everything through a polarized lens. Max Fisher in the NYT (Gift Article): Even as Iranians Rise Up, Protests Worldwide Are Failing at Record Rates.


The Escalator

"What struck me most about President Putin's annexation speech was just how full it was of anti-Western bile. The Russian president seems set on whipping up nationalistic, anti-Western sentiment in the country. It's a useful diversion from the problems at home and the battlefields of Ukraine." Putin raises stakes with phony annexations and a speech full of anti-Western bile.

+ "This annexation is also more specifically a declaration of war against the democratic world, a statement of contempt for democracy itself. Putin has been treating democracy as a tool for decades, using fake parties, creating fake opponents, and rigging elections ... With today's announcement, he no longer pretends or plays games. This deliberate farce mocks the very idea of referenda, of voting, of popular opinion. Nothing about this act has any legitimacy, and that is also part of the point. In his world, there is no such thing as legitimacy. Only brutality matters." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: Putin's Newest Annexation Is Dire for Russia Too.

+ "If there's one thing I've learned from watching Putin all of this time, it's that he is not one to walk away from a fight or back down while losing—escalation is his game, and by now he is very, very practiced at it." Susan Glasser in The New Yorker: What if We're Already Fighting the Third World War with Russia?

+ The Moscow Times: Putin Always Chooses Escalation. (As Putin descends further into genocidal madness, keep in mind that, on the world stage, Trump sided with him over American intelligence and the GOP stuck with him anyway.)


Life in the Fast Lane

"In effect, climate change raises the speed limit on storms ... allowing hurricanes to attain a higher wind speed than they would otherwise. Why does this happen? It arises from the brute-force physics of a hurricane colliding with the inescapable presence of greenhouse gases." Yes, Ian is a storm that shows signs of climate change. But in what way? Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic: Honestly? The Link Between Climate Change and Hurricanes Is Complicated.

+ Ian's massive destruction and cost to life is just coming into focus in Florida as the re-strengthening storm heads for the Carolinas. Here's the latest from The Guardian.

+ "The Florida governor, who as a congressman opposed aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, is seeking relief from the Biden administration as Hurricane Ian ravages his own state." NYT: DeSantis, Once a ‘No' on Storm Aid, Petitions a President He's Bashed. (Sometimes the real winds blow away the political winds.)


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Jessi Hempel is well known in tech circles as a reporter and podcast host. But her excellent writing and incisive, honest storytelling reaches new heights in her memoir about her family's transformation, with almost all of them embracing their queer identities. The book also has the title of the year: The Family Outing. Publishers Weekly nails the review: "Eloquent, intricately woven ... a deeply moving portrait of generational trauma and painstaking repair. This interrogation of familial fissures and bonds radiates with empathy and grace." I've been waiting to share this one with you for a while. You'll be hooked from the first page.

+ What to Pod: He's arguably the most powerful person in the world, and yet we know almost nothing about him. This eight-part series aims to changes that with the epic story of Xi Jinping's turbulent past, how he has changed China, and how he is trying to change the world. I started this last night and it's really good. The Prince: Searching for Xi Jinping.

+ What to Hear: "I got a little Teac four-track cassette machine, and I said, I'm gonna record these songs, and if they sound good with just me doin' 'em, then I'll teach 'em to the band. I could sing and play the guitar, and then I had two tracks to do somethin' else, like overdub a guitar or add a harmony. It was just gonna be a demo. Then I had a little Echoplex that I mixed through, and that was it. And that was the tape that became the record. It's amazing that it got there, 'cause I was carryin' that cassette around with me in my pocket without a case for a couple of weeks, just draggin' it around. Finally, we realized, 'Uh-oh, that's the album.'" The only thing more incredible than the story of Bruce Springsteen recording Nebraska on a four track at home is the fact that for the past four decades the world has had access the audible poetry in its raw and original form. Forty years ago today, Bruce released Nebraska.


Extra, Extra

Tua Tee: On Sunday, Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa wobbled off the field with obvious head trauma. It was instead described as a back injury. He came back into the game. He started last night's game against the Bengals and suffered a much worse head injury and had to be carted off the field. WaPo: NFL players ask why Tua Tagovailoa was playing after previous injury. (You don't need any more analysis on the Tua story. You saw him wobble off the field a few days ago with what was obviously a head injury. Last night, things got worse. So much of PR is about trying to convince you not to believe what you see with your own eyes. Ignore the noise.)

+ Reality Not Required: Trump hinted that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago. The special master in the case demanded that Trump's legal team provide evidence of the claim if it's real. Florida federal judge Aileen Cannon, already under fire for crazy rulings, rejected the demand by the special master, allowing the lie to fester. (So much of politics is about trying to convince you not to believe what you see with your own eyes. Ignore the noise.)

+ But Now I See: "A Southern California law firm announced Wednesday that it has obtained footage of a frequent filer of suits under the Americans with Disabilities Act that allegedly shows he is not 'legally blind' as he has maintained in hundreds of ADA lawsuits." Serial ADA plaintiff in Calif. alleged to be feigning blindness in order to sue.

+ Casing the Deli: "This place has everything. A send-a-sausage wall. An ever-present perfume of corning beef and pickles the size of gerbils. Sticky plastic trays if you need a secure place to park your Gucci handbag. And models sporting blue-painted skin and '70s club outfits? New York's fashion elite have fallen hard for the iconic Jewish deli." The Old-School Deli Is the Newest Hot Girl Hangout. (As long as I'm around, it will also remain a hangout for husky guys.)


Feel Good Friday

"Most philanthropists probably expect to see their own name on a building after making a sizeable donation to a public institution. But Edward Avedisian, a retired clarinetist and philanthropist who in August donated $100 million to Boston University's medical school, chose instead to honor a childhood friend." (I gotta get into the clarinetist business.)

+ A piglet left behind by its herd finds a new family with some cattle. (It's a nice story, but "the other white meat" jokes are getting a little old.)

+ Cat returned to Ukrainian refugee family relocated to Bay Area.

+ Man heroically weathers Hurricane Ian floodwaters to save stranded cat. (Cat repays him with a disinterested glance.)

+ Museums on prescription: Brussels tests cultural visits to treat anxiety.