Friday, April 7th, 2023


Tennessee Ya Later Agitator

Here's how it's supposed to work. People vote for the representatives they want to see in government and then those elected officials serve their terms. The party with control of a political body is not supposed to expel other electees. Of course, we absolutely need some exceptions to this integral component of democracy. Let's say an elected leader attempts to withhold vital international aid to an ally until that ally agrees to publicly announce plans to investigate his political opponent. Or worse, imagine that an official successfully incited an insurrection against his own state or country as part of a broader plot to overturn an election. In cases such as these, certainly, an official should be removed from their role and barred from ever holding public office again. Some people think that greedily collecting cash from special interest groups and then cravenly failing to enact legislation to limit the purchase of weapons of war that have turned a nation's schools into killing fields should be grounds for expulsion from elected office, but that's not how the system works. Yet, somehow, in Tennessee, two officials have been expelled over their protest against the widespread availability of these weapons. AP: "In an extraordinary act of political retaliation, Tennessee Republicans on Thursday expelled two Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature for their role in a protest calling for more gun control in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Nashville. A third Democrat was narrowly spared by a one-vote margin." (In a weird coincidental twist, the two officials that were removed were Black and the one that was spared was White. These days we're not supposed to teach about the history of racism. I'm not sure about the present.)

+ WaPo: Tennessee House expels two Democrats in historic act of partisan retaliation. It's historic. It's could also be setting a precedent.

+ NPR: "The expelled lawmakers conceded they didn't follow decorum by walking on the floor — what is called the well — and speaking without being formally recognized. Republicans said the trio's actions amounted to an insurrection." (Some days, I really wish that email had a rimshot function.)


No Filter

"Influencers around the world have long operated in a legislative gray zone, leading to abuse and scandals. Last year, Kim Kardashian settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the SEC said she promoted a cryptocurrency without disclosing that she had been paid to do so. As influencers become more powerful, governments around the world are taking a closer look at their practices." France wants to force influencers to clearly disclose when something is paid promotion. And that's not all they want disclosed. WaPo (Gift Article): Should influencers fess up about their filters? France may force them to.



Slate with a good summary of why the latest revelations about Clarence Thomas's unreported gifts probably won't matter, but should. "Before the outrage dries up, however, it is worth zeroing in on two aspects of the ProPublica report that do have lasting legal implications. First, the same people who benefited from the lax status quo continue to fight against any meaningful reforms that might curb the justices' gravy train. Second, the rules governing Thomas' conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law: Without the strong threat of enforcement, a putative public servant like Thomas will thumb his nose at the law."

+ "Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that he did not disclose luxury travel paid for by a Republican donor because he was advised at the time that he did not have to report it." (Who was his advisor, Bernie Madoff?)

+ The Los Angeles Times reported about Justice Thomas' gifts 20 years ago. After that he stopped disclosing them.

+ Before the story fizzles out, let's at least enjoy this Clarence Thomas Playlist.


Weekend Whats

What to Read: "I was not expecting that there would be clean and well-stocked gas stations all over Ukraine. I did not expect every store in Lviv and Kyiv to be full and well lit and spotless. I did not expect to be able to buy Christmas ornaments made to look like Ukrainian soldiers in masks and carrying Sidewinder RPGs. I bought one of these, and bought toilet paper bearing the face of Vladimir Putin." Dave Eggers recently returned from a trip to Ukraine. What he found surprised him, and it might surprise you, too. From (back and better than ever) The Believer: Sketches From Ukraine. "Even as their cities are bombed, Ukrainians continue to fill their malls with electronics, host classical music concerts, and import tropical fruits—acts of resistance in the face of Russia's attempts to destroy the fabric of their society."

+ What to Doc: The Martha Mitchell Effect is a short documentary on Netflix that profiles a cabinet wife who spoke out (often, and loudly) about Watergate, and how she drove Nixon crazy (and then they tried to make it seem like she was the crazy one.)


Extra, Extra

The Wrong Track: Sometimes someone mentions a product to me and the next day I see ads for that product appear on social media. Maybe it's paranoia, but it feels like we're always being followed. It's because we are. And here's the rub. The ads are targeting us with more expensive products from lower-quality vendors. NYT: If It's Advertised to You Online, You Probably Shouldn't Buy It. Here's Why.

+ Holy Hell Week: "Tensions are high following two nights of Israeli police raids at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem earlier this week." Israel strikes Lebanon and Gaza after major rocket attack.

+ Meow Remix: "While many people have embraced virtual visits with their own doctors, use of veterinary telemedicine by pet owners has lagged. In one new survey of more than 1,200 American cat owners, 72 percent reported using telemedicine for themselves, compared to just 3 percent who had used it for their felines." NYT: The Virtual Vet Will See You Meow. (Why not. We know cats love to interrupt Zooms.)

+ Ozempic and Choose: "For all its hype, semaglutide is the stepping stone and not the final destination of a new class of obesity drugs. Just how good they get, and how quickly, will go a long way in determining whether this pharmaceutical revolution actually meets its full promise." The Atlantic: Ozempic Is About to Be Old News.

+ I'm a Pepper, Too: "Chipotle also accused Sweetgreen of using a 'font nearly identical' to Chipotle's on its website promoting the new salad. Some of Sweetgreen's ads also use color that's 'nearly identical' to Chipotle's trademarked Adobo Red." Chipotle accuses Sweetgreen of trademark infringement over its ‘chipotle chicken' bowl. (Someone should sue Chipotle for calling what it serves, Burritos.)


Feel Good Friday

"For an item that's generally used for less than an hour during mealtimes, North America imports a whole lot of chopsticks: about 40 to 50 billion pairs a year." This company is turning chopsticks into furniture.

+ This Chicago doctor donated her kidney to a woman in Virginia she'd never met.

+ Can we finally look on the bright side of climate change? Climate crisis causing more home runs in baseball, study suggests.

+ US adds a healthy 236,000 jobs despite Fed's rate hikes.

+ Indiana Jones is coming out of retirement. Here's the Dial of Destiny trailer.

+ Gizmodo went full out with this headline: Look at These Beautiful Rings Rimming Uranus. (When I read that, I nearly tossed my salad.)