Friday, November 18th, 2022


It’s a Dry Heat

The in-person World Cup fans who were hoping that beer goggles would help them avoid an unobstructed view of Qatar's bribes, corruption, human rights abuses, unfinished infrastructure, and blazing heat, just got some bad news. In a last minute reversal, Qatar has banned alcohol at World Cup stadiums. The world will have to participate in sports-washing without being able to wash it down with a few coldies. In addition to fans, this will disappoint Anheuser-Busch, makers of Bud, the official beer of the now beerless games. Fans will still be able to hydrate with the non-alcoholic Bud Zero, because every beer aficionado knows that drinking Bud is all about the taste.

+ Soccer-mad Germans turning their backs on World Cup. (And that was before the beer news.) "Anyone walking around Berlin this week will struggle to notice any signs of World Cup fervor. There are no flags, no signs, no public viewing events – no indication that the soccer-mad country's bid for a fifth world title is about to begin with a game against Japan on Tuesday. Qatar's human rights record and treatment of migrant workers have spoiled the party for many."

+ "The luxury hotel set to host soccer's most senior leaders wasn't quite ready when they began arriving, the latest in a series of last-second tweaks to Qatar's well-laid plans." NYT: An Unlikely Group Scrambles for World Cup Rooms: FIFA's Elite. (Don't worry. These guys know how to land on their feet while getting a foot massage.)


Well Isn’t That Special

Merrick Garland just named a Special Counsel "to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump's Florida estate as well as key aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6." The special counsel will be a guy named Jack Smith, and it seems like he has an appropriate CV for the gig. He's "a veteran prosecutor who led the Justice Department's public integrity section in Washington and who later served as the acting chief federal prosecutor in Nashville, Tennessee, during the Obama administration. More recently, he has been the chief prosecutor for the special court in the Hague that is tasked with investigating international war crimes." Here's the lastest from CNN. It may have been the right move given that Trump is running and so is Biden. But I worry we're closer to arrested development than an arrest.


The Play’s the Thing

The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football took place 40 years ago. And 40 years from now, it will still hold that title. I was at the game with my sister. It was a moment almost impossible to process in real time and certainly impossible to put into words. But somehow, Joe Starkey managed to create the perfect call of the most unbelievable sports moment. If you were just listening on the radio, you probably wouldn't have been able to tell what was happening, only that it was something crazy and it included a lot of band members. Oddly, that's just about how it was experienced by those in attendance. Starkey's call has become almost as famous as the play. Even after one of the longest play-by-play tenures in the business, he knows that his legacy will be dominated by this one call. "They're going to bury me with it. It will be the first words when I die in the obituary. It lives on forever, apparently. This is 40 years later, and it's starting all over again." This weekend, I'll be back at Memorial Stadium for the 40th anniversary of The Play as Stanford and Cal battle it out for the Axe—and to avoid a last place finish in the Pac-12. While the heritage of poor football shows no sign of abating, one tradition will come to an end. Saturday will mark the last call from Joe Starkey who will be broadcasting his final Cal game, ending a tenure that was itself pretty amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, and thrilling. Here's hoping that the Stanford band stays off the field (to be safe, I suggest they stay out of Berkeley altogether). Go Bears.


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: In 1995, Pepsi had a commercial that suggested that its sweepstakes points could be used to win a fighter jet. One guy didn't take it as a joke. Pepsi, Where's My Jet? is a fun, four-part Netflix series with an amazing cast of characters, some of whom you'll recognize (and at least one of whom was interviewed while under house arrest). It's also just a fun look back at the 90s vibe.

+ What to Hear: Bruce Springsteen has a new album out in which he performs classic (and a few relatively unknown) tunes at the intersection of Motown and gospel. I put together a playlist with the new songs alongside the originals. Springsteen just completed a 3-night residency on Jimmy Fallon's show, and its a great way to experience these news songs. Check out: Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), Turn Back the Hands of Time, and Nightshift. Bonus: The time Bruce went to a movie alone and ended up going home with a fan to meet his parents.

+ What to Read: "In order to expand, though, Jacob knew he needed help—somebody who was well-connected in the energy field, who was familiar with the ins and outs of moving fuel around the globe, who was as experienced as the Order was in circumventing the law, and who could keep not just the IRS and other government agencies off his back but also help him hide at least some of the profits from the Order's vigilant accountants. As it happened, Jacob had heard of just such a person. He called himself the Lion." Michele McPhee with a truly crazy story in LA Mag: Bleeding the Beast: Crooked Cops, an Armenian Mob Boss, a $500M Scam and an Unlikely Love Story. I heard about this story from Joel Stein's fun, new podcast, Story of the Week.


Extra, Extra

About Last Night: You sort had to be there. Not just last night, but all along. Elon made an ultimatum to Twitter engineers and many, many of them said no. And then things started to get out of hand (again), leaving Twitter users to wonder if the service would survive the night. Because the service, built for narcissists, is at its best when its self-referential, it was probably the most fun night on Twitter in years. (Only on Twitter would a bunch of addicts joke around because their dealer might run out of stuff.) And many panicked addicts even admitted they like the service, and each other. Everyone thought Twitter was going to die last night. The scene in my house: Me: "Kids, hey looks like I'm gonna have some more free time on my hands. Wanna watch a movie, play a game, or just talk?" Kids: "Mom, some guy is in our living room."

+ Realpolitik Bites: "The administration said the senior position of the crown prince, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler and recently named prime minister as well, should shield him against a suit brought by the fiancée of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and by the rights group Khashoggi founded." The Biden administration argues that Saudi Arabia's crown prince should be considered immune from a lawsuit. (This is a far cry from Biden's tone on the campaign trail.) And from David Ignatius in WaPo: Biden rewards Saudi leader's impunity with legal immunity. "The action is the latest in a cascade of controversies that followed the murder, which the CIA concluded resulted from an operation authorized by MBS. The Trump administration shielded the Saudi leader, but President Biden initially claimed he would hold him accountable."

+ Idaho Killings: "The university's often-packed parking lots had many empty spots Thursday after scores of students decided to return home or leave the area after the quadruple homicide last weekend shocked the college town of Moscow, Idaho." University of Idaho reels with unease days after killing of 4 students and no suspect identified.

+ Perp Walk: "Heather Wallace's oldest son, 8-year-old Aiden, was driving his two brothers crazy in the car as they all returned from karate one afternoon in October 2021. Wallace asked Aiden to walk the rest of the way home—half a mile in quiet, suburban Waco, Texas—so that he could calm down. For this she was arrested, handcuffed, and thrown in jail."

+ Green Acres: New York Cannabis Farms Have $750 Million of Weed — and Nowhere to Sell It. "Growers in upstate New York are figuring out how to keep a glut of weed fresh as the state stalls on retail licenses." (I'll be sending NextDraft from upstate New York for the foreseeable future.)

+ In a Bubble: I've said it before, I'll say it again. The economic divide is driving many of our problems. While most people are dealing with inflation, others are dealing with champagne shortages. Luxury brands report booming sales.

+ Space Case: "They have to oversee a battlefield where every factor involved is moving at unfathomable speed across vast distances — and the stakes are always high." Space troopers are real and US Space Command has 300 of them.


Feel Good Friday

The emotional moment when a chimpanzee mother is reunited with her baby. Oh my.

+ "I don't want you doubting me because I don't have legs. I want to show you that I'm just as human as you, and just as good as you are, if not better." Louisville 8th grader Josiah Johnson makes basketball team despite not having legs.

+ "When Jeff swims, he pulls Johnny. When Jeff runs, he pushes Johnny. And when Jeff bikes, he hauls his son. Their bond is as strong as iron — tempered by love." Father and son, who has cerebral palsy, defy odds to take on Ironman triathlons.

+ Priscilla Sitienei: 'World's oldest primary school pupil' dies aged 99 in Kenya.

+ A vaccine for breast cancer may be near.

+ At ‘Dyslexic Dictionary' Exhibit, Gavin Newsom Joins Artists in Celebration of ‘Hyper-Ability'.

+ US declares lab-grown meat safe to eat in ‘groundbreaking' move.