Tuesday, February 28th, 2023


Con Ed

For months, we've been hit with regular updates on the latest uncovered lies of George Santos. We get it, he lies about everything. Each individual lie is hardly breaking news at this point. What's more interesting is trying to understand why people like Santos—and there are a few I can think of in modern public life—lie so much. For that, let's turn to Maria Konnikova who spent years researching a book about con artists. The Atlantic: What Psychology Can Teach Us About George Santos. "True narcissism lets you rationalize all manner of sin; it's self-delusion taken to an extreme. Narcissism breeds, as well, a self-reinforcing cycle: The more you lie, the more entitled you feel—and the more qualified ... The result is a perverse dynamic. The more a person like George Santos misrepresents himself and cons others for his own gain, the more entitled he feels to keep going. Why should I resign when I'm the most qualified for the job? The con artist, at least to some degree, comes to believe his own lies. One recent series of studies found that people who were confronted with evidence of self-deception—believing themselves to have performed better than they actually did, and better than the average person, on a series of trivia questions—not only failed to acknowledge their self-delusion but began to see others as the ones prone to it."


Netanyahu Let the Dogs Out

"In the past few days, some 250 officers from the Military Intelligence's Special Operations Division have signed a public letter stating that "they would stop showing up for duty" should the government proceed with its autocratic judicial overhaul, The Times of Israel reported. They added their voices to 'groups of pilots, tankists, submariners, sailors and other special forces who have penned similar letters.' Israel has never experienced a Palestinian intifada, a Jewish settler intifada and an Israeli citizen judicial intifada all at once. But that's begun to unfold since Netanyahu's far-right government took office." Thomas Freidman sums up the threat to Israel's democracy (and more) in the NYT (Gift Article): Netanyahu Is Shattering Israeli Society.


Ground Control to Major Tom(bstone)

"For decades, the average proportion of humanities students in every class hovered around fifteen per cent nationally, following the American economy up in boom times and down in bearish periods. (If you major in a field like business for the purpose of getting rich, it doesn't follow—but can be mistaken to—that majoring in English will make you poor.) Enrollment numbers of the past decade defy these trends, however. When the economy has looked up, humanities enrollments have continued falling. When the markets have wobbled, enrollments have tumbled even more. Today, the roller coaster is in free fall." Nathan Heller in The New Yorker: The End of the English Major.

+ Maybe this has something to do with it? The 10 highest-paying college majors, five years after graduation. (I continue to believe that English is the best major for those who strive to one day launch a newsletter with no business model.)


Sweet Surrender

"Additional lab and animal research presented in the paper revealed that erythritol appeared to be causing blood platelets to clot more readily. Clots can break off and travel to the heart, triggering a heart attack, or to the brain, triggering a stroke." Zero-calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke. (So far, researchers only see a correlation, but they were concerned enough to sound an alarm, one that I heard since, after perusing several ingredient labels in my kitchen, I realized I consume a ton of this stuff.)


Extra, Extra

Debt Limit: "Several conservative justices appeared skeptical of the administration's authority to cancel millions of dollars in federally held loans as some liberal justices raised concerns about states hampering federal government operations." (Even Humanities majors can do the math and know how this will go.) Here's the latest from CNN: Supreme Court considers fate of Biden's student loan relief plan. And some background: The Supreme Court showdown over Biden's student debt relief program, explained.

+ Putting Chips on the Table: Leaders are using the economic levers of government to achieve policy gains. For example, the Biden administration plans to require computer chip companies seeking new federal funding to provide childcare for employees. And "Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that gives him control of Walt Disney World's self-governing district, punishing the company over its opposition to the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' law."

+ Brain Wave: "The good news is, that unlike other parts of the body, our brains are built to change over our lifetime, meeting the challenges set by every life stage. While nobody can predict the exact ages of brain development, here's a general guide to how the brain may change at various ages." That said, not all the news is good... WaPo (Gift Article): How does the brain age across the lifespan? New studies offer clues.

+ Murdoch, He Wrote: "When asked why he continued to allow Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, to make election fraud claims on Fox News, Murdoch said it was a business decision. 'It is not red or blue, it is green.'" (It's just a weird coincidence that his brand only lies for red.) Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News hosts endorsed false stolen election claims. Meanwhile, the lawyers representing Dominion are like...

+ Nurse Sharks: "'I'm in South Florida. It's a hotbed of fraud, whether it's identity fraud, or PPP fraud, and health care fraud, but this is something that we have not seen before.'" Thousands of nurses obtained fake diplomas and provided care without proper training.

+ Tall Tale: "South Korea is almost unique in how quickly their population has gotten taller because they went from a relatively low-income country in the 1950s to well on their way to being a rich, industrialized country by the 90s. And the difference is particularly stark when you compare the heights of South Koreans with those of North Koreans." A video explainer: Why Did South Koreans Get So Much Taller in the Past 100 Years?


Bottom of the News

"More than 20 years ago, something unusual happened in the small town of Dixfield, Maine. A lady named Barbara Thorpe had left almost all of her money—$200,000—to benefit the cats of her hometown. When Barbara died in 2002, those cats suddenly got very, very rich. And that is when all the trouble began." A Planet Money episode: How the cats of Dixfield, Maine came into a fortune — and almost lost it. (I'm leaving it all to my beagles. My cats need no additional incentive to wish me dead.)

+ Kids can't get enough of this influencer sports drink.

+ From The Mandalorian to The Last of Us, Pedro Pascal seems to be everywhere these days. But did you know he was in an episode of Buffy?