June 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Scotus Takes Over, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

In the few days I was away to take my son to tour colleges, the country dramatically changed in several ways, including in regard to life on the campuses we visited. That’s how it is in today’s America, where SCOTUS offers regular reminders that it’s hammer time. If you blink, you’ll miss massive alterations as a six-person Supreme Court majority built to turn back the clock deep sixes existing laws. While we’re fixated on the flame wars and reality television associated with political sideshows of the other two branches, the Court’s majority has branched out, overturning Roe, and now Affirmative Action and Biden’s student debt relief plan. The only government branch that seems to matter right now doing exactly what everyone thought they would.

+ “The ruling by the Court’s six Republican-appointed justices prevents higher-education institutions from considering race in admissions precisely as kids of color, for the first time, comprise a majority of the nation’s high-school graduates. Against that backdrop, the decision could widen the mismatch between a youth population that is rapidly diversifying and a student body that is likely to remain preponderantly white in the elite colleges and universities that serve as the pipeline for leadership in the public and private sectors. That seems a formula guaranteed to heighten social tension.” Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic: Curtailing Affirmative Action Is a Blow Against a Rising Generation. Universities need to address this and one assumes they’ve been planning for this eventuality. I used to teach at a bottom five high school in Brooklyn where the students (all of whom were Black) were confronted by constant violence outside of school and then passed through metal detectors on their way into a building where decent teachers were the exception. Later, when I was getting my master in education at Harvard, I taught at an alternative school for kids in in the Boston area, including Black kids from Roxbury and white kids from Southie. Every kid I taught had an educational experience that was a thousand times harder than the one I had. One way or another, higher education has to take these differences, and our basic American history of racism, into account. If they don’t, everyone loses, including wealthy white students. A less diverse campus is a lesser campus for all students.

+ Are you a person of color who wants to enter an elite university? You’re on your own. But if you want to risk your life for the country, we’ve got you. Military academies can still consider race in admissions. Military academies can still consider race in admissions.

+ How will the affirmative action ban change the collegiate landscape? For a clue, look to California, where affirmative action has been banned since 1996. Plus, the impact of affirmative action at the University of California in one graphic.

+ Debt Limit: “The U.S Supreme Court handed President Joe Biden a painful defeat on Friday, blocking his plan to cancel $430 billion in student loan debt – a move that had been intended to benefit up to 43 million Americans and fulfill a campaign promise.” (There are still a few political cards to play when it comes to student debt relief.) Sidenote: In general, the college admission process is a nightmare and schools are way too expensive. Education should give you a boost, not shackle you to a financial anvil.

+ Site Line: The cases that foreshadow the most about what we can expect from this court are related to religion. The Supreme Court says 1st Amendment entitles web designer to refuse same-sex wedding work. (What could be more patently un-American than turning away business?) “Sotomayor noted a nationwide rise in anti-LGBTQ discrimination and called it ‘heartbreaking.’ ‘Sadly, it is also familiar,’ she wrote in her dissent. ‘When the civil rights and women’s rights movements sought equality in public life, some public establishments refused. Some even claimed, based on sincere religious beliefs, constitutional rights to discriminate. The brave Justices who once sat on this Court decisively rejected those claims.'” This Court isn’t that Court. Meanwhile, the website case may have been manufactured out of thin air. “In filings in the 303 Creative v. Elenis case is a supposed request for a gay wedding website—but the man named in the request says he never filed it.” The Mysterious Case of the Fake Gay Marriage Website, the Real Straight Man, and the Supreme Court. (Pro tip from someone who has worked in the web industry since there’s been one: Any website designer who refuses to build something because of gay associations is definitely a really bad website designer.)

+ Decorum Punch: Aside from the decisions handed down this week, it’s worth noting the rancor the justices aimed at one another in their opinions. Even SCOTUS isn’t immune from the divisive flame wars that have infested America.


Buffeted But Not Broken

“Americans love big things. That’s it. We just love more. I’m not saying that’s good. I’m just saying it’s who we are.” As a person who treats visits to the Sizzler like an extreme athlete, I’m not one to disagree. Much to the surprise of many, the all-you-can-eat spreads that were left for dead during the pandemic are back … in a big way. NYT (Gift Article): The Buffet Is Back, Stretching Dollars and Slinging Crab Legs. (In college, my friends and I used to fast for 24 hours before going to the Sizzler.)

+ Related (in sort of a bummer way) from WaPo (Gift Article): Melted, pounded, extruded: Why many ultra-processed foods are unhealthy. “Industrial processing changes the structure of food. Experts say it can affect how much you eat and absorb, your weight and risk for chronic disease.” (This is, of course, the everything story when it comes to human health.)


I’d Like to Solve the Puzzle

“The number of soap operas, a decades-old linchpin of daytime television, has fallen to a small handful. Hit daytime talk shows — once hosted by the likes of Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres — are becoming rarer by the year. Late-night shows are dwindling. But one golden oldie is still standing strong.” They’re cheap to produce. They target the right demographic. And, if needed, they allow you to purchase a vowel. NYT (Gift Article): This Broadcast TV Genre Continues to Thrive. (What Are Game Shows?)

+ Slate: Pat Sajak is one of the richest, longest-tenured men on television. Why is he so mad? “Sajak still works only 48 days a year for that reported $15 million annual salary, and he always seems as if he’d rather be anywhere else while making the hay. He won the lottery and remains forever aggrieved.”


Weekend Whats

Who to Remember: The entertainment world lost a great one as Alan Arkin passed away at the age of 89. Alan Arkin, Virtuoso Comic Actor With a Serious Side, Dies at 89. His remarkable range led Arkin to an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine. It’s on Max and rentable elsewhere. Here are two scenes from that movie that will make you miss Arkin all the more. I think my personal favorite was The Slums of Beverly Hills which is streaming on Hulu. There was also the In Laws, Glengarry Glen Ross and countless other great performances.

+ What to Hear: Last week I advised you to watch season two of The Bear. I undersold it because I hadn’t watch it all yet. Holy crap, it’s great. So is the Soundtrack. Here are the songs from season 2.

+ What to Read: Here are two longform articles for your long weekend reading list. First, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic on Dave Grohl’s Monument to Mortality. “One blow, then another. It was all a bit much. Grohl is an unreasonably buoyant person, but it was hard to imagine how he would pull himself out of a trough dug by such concentrated loss. But he did. And he did so by writing his way out.” And Eric Wills in GQ on The Man Who Broke Bowling. “When he first alighted on the scene, Belmo, as he’s known to his fans, resembled an alien species: one that bowled with two hands. And not some granny shot, to be clear, but a kickass power move in which he uses two fingers (and no thumb) on his right hand, palms the front of the ball with his left, and then, on his approach, which is marked by a distinctive shuffle step, rocks the ball back before launching it with a liquid, athletic whip, his delivery producing an eye-popping hook, his ball striking the pins like a mini mortar explosion.”


Extra, Extra

They’re Playing Our Tune: “The whole universe is humming. Actually, the whole universe is Mongolian throat singing. Every star, every planet, every continent, every building, every person is vibrating along to the slow cosmic beat.” Scientists Found Ripples in Space and Time. (Just another example of Einstein being able to name that tune long before science could test his theories.)

+ Sub Plot: “It’s a narrative we all love: humans rallying to a common cause. Remember that soccer team stuck in the Thai cave? But this was different, and it felt like a charade, like total bullshit. Because if I knew the sub was gone, plenty of other people did, too. So where was that coverage?” The False Hope That the Titan’s Passengers Might Have Been Saved.

+ Bols Out: Judges ban Bolsonaro from running for office for eight years over ‘appalling lies.’ (Lying about elections is still frowned upon in some circles.)

+ French Protests: “Protesters erected barricades, lit fires and shot fireworks at police in French streets overnight as tensions grew over the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old that has shocked the nation.”

+ Guard Off: “A Florida sheriff’s deputy was acquitted Thursday of felony child neglect and other charges for failing to act during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, concluding the first trial in U.S. history of a law enforcement officer for conduct during an on-campus shooting.”

+ Destroying Their Own Monster? Being the worst president in American history and committing numerous felonies hasn’t seemed to shake the support of Trump’s base. This might: Koch network raises more than $70 million, launches new anti-Trump ads in early voting states.

+ We Have Liftoff: We were promised flying cars. And one just got approved by the FAA.


Feel Good Friday

“”I’ve been running my research lab for almost 30 years,’ says Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘And I can say that throughout that period of time, I’ve just never experienced what we’re seeing over just the last five years.'” Machine learning has a very big upside and this article reflects what I’ve been hearing from my smartest friends. NYT (Gift Article): Suddenly, It Looks Like We’re in a Golden Age for Medicine. “You cannot imagine what you’re going to see over the next 30 years. The pace of advancement is in an exponential phase right now.”

+ “He began his war on telemarketers nearly a decade ago, he said, after one called the family’s landline and said a bad word to his son. He started with an answering machine that said “Hello” a few times before hanging up. Anderson has since rolled out his weapons of mass distraction. He has posted conversations between man and bot, some lasting as long as 15 minutes before the telemarketer hangs up.” WSJ (Gift Article): People Hire Phone Bots to Torture Telemarketers.

+ A Texas Family Passed Up Millions to Turn Their Ranch Into a Nature Preserve. (This would be an unlikely plot twist on Yellowstone.)

+ Oregon becomes the latest state to put ranked choice voting on the ballot.

+ Teen who walked six miles to 8th grade graduation gets college scholarship on the spot. “He thought that full-ride meant he would get a ride to college, like he wouldn’t have to walk here again.”

+ Have a good holiday weekend. I hope to be back to the normal schedule after the 4th, but that will require not being selected for jury duty on Monday…

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