Thursday, June 8th, 2023


Big Apples and Oranges

For folks in NYC and other regions blanketed by smoke and living against an unfamiliar backdrop, welcome to the club. I'm a member. So are my kids. It's hard to remember everything that happened in 2020, the year that wouldn't end, but climate events are like presidential politics. You can't unsee the orange. Nine months into the pandemic year, we had learned to expect the unexpected. But no one in the Bay Area expected what we saw in the middle of the day on September 9. Orange skies. After another dry summer of record heat, California was burning. For me, the ravaging fires and rolling blackouts seemed as novel as the coronavirus and provided a bleak reminder that the pandemic was merely a preview of what would be a much longer and infinitely more daunting challenge presented by the slow but consistent roll of climate change. For my kids, who had missed school for fires, floods, power outages, and a pandemic, this was all too normal. To them, warnings to stay indoors, soot in the air, a thickening layer of ash on the hoods of our cars parked fifty miles from the nearest flames, days without electricity, and the stench of smoke so thick it could wake you up in the middle of the night just meant fall was in the air.

But even for my climate-jaded kids, it was a bit unnerving to take a lunch break from Zoom school, look out the window at the dark, blood-orange skies that wrapped the Bay Area, and listen to the familiar sound of foghorns blowing for the unfamiliar reason that it was nearly pitch black in the middle of the day. I wouldn't have been surprised if the foghorns started playing This is the End by the Doors.

When it comes to shocking climate related events, this, however, is not the end. It's just the beginning. So to my friends on the East Coast, I say, welcome to the club you never wanted to join. Or, perhaps more accurately, welcome to the world. Smog is choking New York. But for these cities, it's just another day. At least you'll have to deal with fewer climate change deniers going forward. Their arguments hold much less sway when they're sucking wind against a blood red sky.

+ AP: Poor air quality from Canadian wildfires affects people as far as away as North Carolina.

+ "East Coasters finally understand what it's like to live in California." Vox: Why is eastern Canada on fire — and when will the smoke clear?

+ Scenes from the city from Buzzfeed and NY Mag.

+ As for the forecast, El Niño has begun in the Pacific Ocean. Experts say it will likely make 2024 the world's hottest year.

(Today's lede was adapted from my book Please Scream Inside Your Heart, a time capsule of 2020, available in print, on Kindle, or as an audiobook, featuring the remarkable narration of Peter Coyote.)


Licht Wounds

"The piece hit hard. It documented how Licht's decision-making was misguided, seeming to lack a moral core of journalistic mission, despite the lip service paid to the importance of reporting. And it showed his disconnect with the editorial staff; he was both distant, with an office far from the journalists, and intrusive, making radical personnel moves that played out poorly and engendered an atmosphere of fear and mistrust." But as Margaret Sullivan explains, Chris Licht could have survived all that an more at CNN if it weren't for one thing. Ratings. The CNN chief messed up in many ways. Only one of them was fatal. Well, ratings and the related revenue issues. CNN's Ad Revenue Down Nearly 40%. I know everyone positions CNN's woes as being part of the political divide and the cable news outrage wars. But, here's a crazy idea for how CNN could save itself with one dramatic and almost unthinkable change. Start actually reporting news again.


Counter Points

"They have to convince the Russian elite that the war was a mistake and that Russia can't win it, not in the short term and not in the long term, either. Toward this end, they are also seeking to convince ordinary Russians that they aren't as safe as they thought, that the war is nearer to their own homes than they believed, and that President Vladimir Putin isn't as wise as they imagined. And the Ukrainians have to do all of this without a full-scale invasion of Russia, without occupying Moscow, and without a spectacular Russian surrender in Red Square." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic (Gift Article): Ukraine's Counteroffensive Has Begun. Its Goals Are Not Merely Military.


Cheech and Wrong

"Judge Ebony Scott ruled late Monday that while Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd could not prove she is entitled to damages, she successfully made the case that the smell is a private nuisance, and Scott ordered Thomas Cackett to stop smoking." WaPo (Free Article): Bothered by pot smell, she sued her neighbor to stop smoking — and won. "Cackett testified in court that the medical marijuana relieves his pain and helps him sleep after physically intensive shifts as a restaurant manager. He said that he smoked about 'eight to 12 puffs' at night after he gets off work, typically outside if the weather was tolerable, and he denied smoking 'all day and all night as the plaintiff alleges.' 'I am not Snoop Dogg.'" (He's says that like it's a good thing.)


Extra, Extra

Shock and Draw: "The opinion was unexpected. On two previous occasions, the conservative court has acted to gut provisions of the Voting Rights Act, leaving the once-hailed milestone legislation now a hollowed-out shell. But this decision appears to have left redistricting's last remaining guardrail intact, unlike the other provisions that have been struck down or neutered." Supreme Court unexpectedly upholds provision prohibiting racial gerrymandering.

+ Say Anything: "If you or I went on Instagram and created daily posts saying the COVID vaccines are harmful, we'd likely lose our accounts just like Kennedy did. But now he's launched a bid for the presidency that looks to have about as much chance as Connor Roy did in Succession. And presto: he has his Instagram account back." Casey Newton welcomes you back to the free-for-all. The platforms give up on 2020 lies.

+ KIA Get a Witness? "A loose collective of teenage car thieves calling themselves Kia Boys have stolen tens of thousands of Hyundai and Kia vehicles, often posting the results on YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok. But the chaos and destruction left in their wake rarely goes noticed." What happens when you mix a remarkably easy to steal vehicle with a vehicle to go viral? This: The Kia Boys will steal your car for clout. (It's a bit ironic that a car called KIA doesn't really require A Key.)

+ Messi Swaps Football for Soccer: Lionel Messi is not going to Saudi Arabia! "Great news and a win for democracy, freedom, and human rights." He's going to Florida. "Oh..."

+ Pat Down: "Pat Robertson, a religious broadcaster who turned a tiny Virginia station into the global Christian Broadcasting Network, tried a run for president and helped make religion central to Republican Party politics in America through his Christian Coalition, has died. He was 93." (A conspiracy theorist who was ahead of his time, he squeezed a hell of a lot of BS into 93 years.)

+ Orgasmic Drop: "The founder and an executive of a cult-like San Francisco company that taught orgasmic meditation were charged Tuesday for allegedly running an enterprise that encouraged members to cut ties with outsiders, incur debts, exult the company's founders and perform forced sexual acts with potential investors and others." (If you can't trust people selling orgasmic meditation, who can you trust...)


Bottom of the News

"Spending all night slicing and dicing and flipping to applause, then reemerging into a world that values you only for your ability to conform to its preconceptions. Perhaps you think of yourself mainly in terms of how well you live up to others' expectations, even if you never agreed to them, and fret about performing that role. Perhaps there's barely room to think of what else you could — or want to — offer. Anyway, there is no show good enough to earn you acceptance. But still, you hope." My Benihana, Myself. I find that even being a customer at Benihana takes an emotional toll. The first time is fine. But then every other time you, you're under pressure to show enthusiasm for the same exact show you've seen many times. I feel like I'm the one performing. (Except when it comes to the onion volcano. Then my enthusiasm is really every time.)

+ Forget futuristic goggles. Apple's upcoming iOS 17 iPhone software will stop autocorrecting swear words. The clusterduck is finally over.