Thursday, January 19th, 2023


Ja’s Rule

In an unexpected move, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who gained international prominence for her handling of a mass shooting and the Covid pandemic crisis—as well as being elected at the young age of 37 and becoming only the second world leader to give birth while in office—has announced she is stepping down from the role. I'm not overly familiar with NZ politics, I've never been to NZ, and my knowledge of Ardern is limited. But this is the internet, so none of those factors would prevent me from sharing my expert opinions on the topic. But instead, I want to connect the Ardern story to the broader state of politics. In announcing her decision to resign, Ardern explained: "I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple." The broader question is what kind of person has enough in their tank to deal with the lie and rage swamped cesspool of modern politics. In Pink Houses, John Mellencamp sings the line, "They told me when I was younger, said, "Boy, you're gonna be president." When that song came out in 1983, the idea that one could become president was meant to be aspirational. Now it sounds more like a life sentence.

Being New Zealand's prime minister sounds similarly nightmarish. The same pandemic response that earned Jacinda Ardern international raves also surfaced a relentless campaign against her. As the AP reports, "Ardern faced growing anger at home from those who opposed coronavirus mandates and rules. A protest last year that began on Parliament's grounds lasted for more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and setting fires to tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave." The lunatics are no longer at the fringe. Need evidence of that? Consider the US House of Representatives. Sane people retired or were forced out of DC, where they've been replaced by the most rabid members, not only of Congress, but of society. Marjorie Taylor Greene is now sitting on the Homeland Security Committee and George Santos sits on the Small Business Committee and the Science Committee. Today, running for office is like voluntarily leaping into a pit of trolls.

The scourge extends from the national halls of power to local school board meetings. Being loud is now more important than being right. Consider the case of mayors and climate change. In a recent survey, we learned that just about every mayor knows humans are contributing to climate change and that it's a really urgent crisis. But most of them also admit they're not going to try to pass any major legislation because of the political ramifications. So why become a mayor? Why get into politics? Today, the job of being a politician feels like a fallback option for someone who can't make it as an internet troll. And here's the rub. The worse the politician's job description gets, the more we need decent people to run for office.


Unions Jacked

We've seen unionization efforts at Amazon and Starbucks. We've got a pro-union administration. But still, "the percentage of U.S. workers who belong to a union dropped from 10.3 percent to 10.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday, as the job market added non-unionized workers at a faster rate than unionized workers. That's the lowest the figure has been since the agency first started tracking comparable data." Union membership drops to record low in 2022.

+ Striking French workers lead mass protests against plans to raise retirement age.


Rust Fall

"Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun, has signed an agreement to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, the district attorney's office said. Involuntary manslaughter can involve a killing that happens while a defendant is doing something that is lawful but dangerous and is acting negligently or without caution." Alec Baldwin to be charged with manslaughter in set shooting. The armorer responsible for weapons on the set also faces charges.

+ Here's the latest from CNN: Alec Baldwin to be charged in fatal 'Rust' shooting.


The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home

"For nearly a year and a half, a Massachusetts high school has been lit up around the clock because the district can't turn off the roughly 7,000 lights in the sprawling building." Why? Because the software that runs the system failed in August of 2021 and no one's been able to fix it. The lights have been on at a Massachusetts school for over a year because no one can turn them off. This feels like a metaphor for something. Or everything.


Extra, Extra

The Bad Backs Behind Your Deliveries: "As part of a larger investigation into hazardous working conditions, the Occupational Safety and and Health Administration announced on Wednesday it has cited Amazon for failing to keep workers safe at warehouses in Deltona, Florida; Waukegan, Illinois; and New Windsor, New York." Behind your speedy Amazon delivery are serious hazards for workers, government finds. (Let's put things into perspective: For these hazards, Amazon was fined $60,269.)

+ A Breachable Moment: As the US breaches its debt limit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said officials have started to deploy 'extraordinary measures' to make sure the country can keep paying its bills. The measures aren't all that extraordinary. But the stupidity and trolling associated with this debt limit fight will be. Wall Street's DC watchers are really, really worried about the debt ceiling.

+ Come On Get Happy: "As the study's director (Bob) and associate director (Marc), we've been able to watch participants fall in and out of relationships, find success and failure at their jobs, become mothers and fathers. It's the longest in-depth longitudinal study on human life ever done, and it's brought us to a simple and profound conclusion: Good relationships lead to health and happiness. The trick is that those relationships must be nurtured." The Atlantic: What the Longest Study on Human Happiness Found Is the Key to a Good Life. (Oddly, there's no mention of perusing a few hundred news stories every morning.)

+ Your Fifteen Minutes "Four young men have been executed in connection with the nationwide protests that erupted in Iran four months ago, while 18 other people have been sentenced to death. Human rights groups have said they were convicted after grossly unfair sham trials." Iran protests: 15 minutes to defend yourself against the death penalty.

+ Nice Ass: "From bearing the burdens of the Roman Empire to enabling trade over long distances, the humble donkey has been surprisingly influential." So let's give donkey's their due. How donkeys changed the course of human history.


Bottom of the News

"Not even a century ago, mothers decried pinball as a gaudy game that lured children into delinquency and school-yard debt. In South Carolina, lawmakers wrung their hands over the "cancerous" and 'vicious' machines. One senator prayed pinball would be banned before the state became 'like Louisiana.'" But apparently, the mood over pinball has improved. South Carolina bill would repeal decades-old ban on kids playing pinball. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it tilts towards justice.

+ A Canadian dude flying a drone caught a moose shedding his antlers.

+ "Among US tourist spots, visitors at the Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo, Texas, should know that the nearest restroom is around four miles away, making it one of the most remote destinations in the country." Public Toilet Access In Cities Around The World, Ranked.