Monday, March 20th, 2023


Playing Catch Up

It's not that you can't handle the truth. It's that you can't catch it. In today's news cycle, even some of the biggest stories come and go in the blink of an eye. Things weren't always that way. I came of age during the Nightline era (before CNN launched 24 TV news) when Ted Koppel remade the news landscape, covering the Iran hostage crisis for 444 days. One story. The same story. Every night. During the early days, Koppel's show was called The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage. And we were, by a news story. The story we watched nightly ended with a suspicious twist. The US hostages, whose 444-day ordeal was an anvil weighing down Jimmy Carter's presidency, were released from Iran on the exact day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration. We've now learned that what many suspected was probably true. NYT (Gift Article): A Four-Decade Secret: One Man's Story of Sabotaging Carter's Re-election. "'History needs to know that this happened,' Ben Barnes, who turns 85 next month, said in one of several interviews, his first with a news organization about the episode. 'I think it's so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we've got to get it down some way.'" They say a lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. Maybe the truth should switch to track shoes.


Jam Sandwich

"He looked out the window toward Madison Street, which had become the center of one of the largest homeless encampments in the country, with as many as 1,100 people sleeping outdoors. On this February morning, he could see a half-dozen men pressed around a roaring fire. A young woman was lying in the middle of the street, wrapped beneath a canvas advertising banner. A man was weaving down the sidewalk in the direction of Joe's restaurant with a saw, muttering to himself and then stopping to urinate a dozen feet from Joe's outdoor tables. 'It's the usual chaos and suffering,' he told Debbie. 'But the restaurant's still standing.'" The seemingly intractable homelessness in some cities is not only a crisis for those without homes, it's also a crisis for small business owners. The excellent Eli Saslow with his first piece for the NYT (Gift Article): A Sandwich Shop, a Tent City and an American Crisis.

+ "Newsom announced Sunday that he will ask allies in the Democratic-controlled Legislature for a measure on the 2024 ballot to authorize funding to build residential facilities where up to 12,000 people a year could live and be treated." California to seek beds for mental health, drug treatment. Getting care for 12,000 homeless people in California would be a start, but as of last year, the state had 171,000 homeless.


Hunger Games

"It is possible to imagine a different universe in which the discovery of semaglutide was an unalloyed good—a powerful tool to untangle the knot of genetic tendencies, environmental forces, and behaviors that conspire to make more and more Americans gain weight. We might recognize metabolism and appetite as biological facts rather than as moral choices; rising rates of Type 2 diabetes and obesity around the globe could be reversed. In the actual universe that we inhabit, the people who most need semaglutide often struggle to get it, and its arrival seems to have prompted less a public consideration of what it means to be fat than a renewed fixation on being thin." Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker: Will the Ozempic Era Change How We Think About Being Fat and Being Thin? "A popular, growing class of drugs for obesity and diabetes could, in an ideal world, help us see that metabolism and appetite are biological facts, not moral choices." Beyond morals and metabolism, there's also the case of what we put into our bodies. Big food sells us products that make us fat. Big pharma sells us products that makes us thin.


Xi Shed

"That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes." So said Sec of State Antony Blinken in a bit of an understatement. Xi and Putin meet in Moscow as Russia's war in Ukraine continues. From WaPo: As Xi visits Russia, Putin sees his anti-U.S. world order taking shape. (Bingo.) Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry's Founder Is ‘Top Donor' of Group Campaigning Against U.S. Military Support for Ukraine. (Strong Liberalism is great. Weak Liberalism is pathetic. The fact that a Jew doesn't understand the importance of stopping this thug from European expansion makes me glad my blood sugar is too high to eat ice cream anymore. Ben Cohen can go chunk himself.)


Extra, Extra

Wrecks and Balances: Trump is such a complete lowlife that we're actually debating which of his crimes he should be arrested for first. It's not a surprise that he's greeted news that he'll soon be arrested in connection with the Stormy Daniels payoff with calls for protesters to take to the streets (that, after all, is the subject the much more substantial charges against him). The bigger (and probably more disturbing) story to watch is how is enablers like Kevin McCarthy are looking to call Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg in for questioning by the House. This is a classic element in the authoritarian playbook. We covered the spread of these tactics a couple weeks ago. And it's happening wherever Trump is being charged.

+ Happiness is as Happiness Polls: "Global happiness has not taken a hit in the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life evaluations from 2020 to 2022 have been 'remarkably resilient,' the report says, with global averages basically in line with the three years preceding the pandemic." Humans are either really resilient or really bad at polling happiness levels. Once again, Finland tops the world's happiest countries. Plus, how do you take a picture of happiness? We asked photographers to surprise us.

+ Suisse Army Knife: UBS has acquired Credit Suisse in the latest fallout from the banking crisis. It didn't go well for bondholders.

+ Pill Kill: "Wyoming on Friday became the first US state to outlaw mifepristone, commonly known as the abortion pill, outside of an overall abortion ban. Wyoming's ban is just one of several new efforts across the nation to ban access to abortion — or severely punish those who seek abortion care."

+ Twit for Brains: Antisemitism on Twitter has more than doubled since Elon Musk took over the platform. (Weird. I wonder if it has anything to do with letting all the antisemites back on the platform?)

+ Cockpit Boss: "This time, the planes' lendee, a disgruntled flight school operator, was on-site — and drunk as all hell. As Hill prepped the planes, the man charged toward him with a 2×4 and started swinging. 'I had to have a complete knee replacement because of that," says Hill. 'But I still got both airplanes out of there.'" The man who repossesses multimillion-dollar airplanes.


Bottom of the News

Judd Apatow: "As a young person, everybody that encountered him thought, 'This guy is going to be a gigantic star.' Because he was making us so happy when we hung around with him." WaPo (Gift Article): Adam Sandler doesn't need your respect. But he's getting it anyway.

+ Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston and Chris Rock were among the actors and comedians in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Adam Sandler as he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

+ "Because of the array of unique challenges the race presents, only 17 individuals have completed the race since it started in 1986. For the past five years, no one has finished the race." So this year's course must have been too easy! For the second time in history, a record 3 people have completed the Barkley Marathons.

+ NYT: Life Isn't Fair. He Didn't Want This Race to Be, Either.