Thursday, September 14th, 2023


Spartacus Has Left the Building

Mitt Romney has announced that he will leave the Senate. And he'll be taking one of the few vestiges of GOP norms with him. I may not share many policy opinions with Mitt Romney, but these days I'm a single issue voter, and that single issue is democracy. On his way out, Mitt has some thoughts that he shared with The Atlantic's always excellent McKay Coppins. What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate. On what his colleagues really think of Trump: "Perhaps Romney's most surprising discovery upon entering the Senate was that his disgust with Trump was not unique among his Republican colleagues. 'Almost without exception,' he told me, 'they shared my view of the president.' In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president's most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddler­like psyche." On his concerns about violence (and its instigator) in the days leading up to Jan 6: "McConnell has been indulgent of Trump's deranged behavior over the past four years, but he's not crazy. He knows that the election wasn't stolen, that his guy lost fair and square. He sees the posturing by Republican politicians for what it is. He'll want to know about this, Romney thinks. He'll want to protect his colleagues, and himself. Romney sends his text: 'In case you have not heard this, I just got a call from Angus King, who said that he had spoken with a senior official at the Pentagon who reports that they are seeing very disturbing social media traffic regarding the protests planned on the 6th. There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.' McConnell never responds."

+ From Me: Take a moment an recall (and share) one of Romney's most honorable moments, when he stood and declared, "I'm Spartacus!" And his colleagues nodded in his direction and said, "Yup, that's Spartacus, alright."


Truth or Darién

Here's one (more) reason the problems at the border are so intractable. It's a big business. And people are making money at the highest levels. NYT (Gift Article): ‘A Ticket to Disney'? Politicians Charge Millions to Send Migrants to U.S. "Hundreds of thousands of migrants are now pouring through a sliver of jungle known as the Darién Gap, the only land route to the United States from South America, in a record tide that the Biden administration and the Colombian government have vowed to stop. But the windfall here at the edge of the continent is simply too big to pass up, and the entrepreneurs behind the migrant gold rush are not underground smugglers hiding from the authorities."


Blinken Out Loud

Heather Cox Richardson on a speech from Sec of State Antony Blinken that does a great job of summing up the state of post-cold war geopolitics. Blinken highlights something I keep saying is at the root of so many modern problems. "The international economic order of the past several decades is flawed in ways that have caused people to lose faith in it, Blinken explained. Technology and globalization have hollowed out entire industries and weakened workers, while laws protected property. Inequality grew dramatically between 1980 and 2020, with the richest 0.1% accumulating the same wealth as the poorest 50%. "The longer these disparities persist,' Blinken pointed out, 'the more distrust and disillusionment they fuel in people who feel the system is not giving them a fair shake. And the more they exacerbate other drivers of political polarization, amplified by algorithms that reinforce our biases rather than allowing the best ideas to rise to the top.'"


White Lies

"Have you ever looked at Selena Gomez's teeth? Like, really looked at them? Have you studied the undulating Pepto-pink curvature of her gums? Have you clocked the angle at which her two front teeth rest on her fricative line — the wet-dry equator of the lower lip, where the oral mucosa transitions to the vermilion — when she smiles? Did you notice, approximately four years ago, that Gomez's teeth appeared to change shape, color and position — that they were suddenly whiter than ever, aligned in a ramrod-straight row at the front of her face?" WaPo (Gift Article): Have you noticed that everyone's teeth are a little too perfect?

+ "His work has informed the highlighter a college student uses to mark up a textbook, the permanent marker a construction worker uses to indicate cuts on lumber, and the basic ballpoint pens a gainfully employed journalist can't help swiping from hotel rooms ... Increasingly, he's applying his expertise to a new kind of handheld writing instrument: pens designed specifically for whitening teeth."


Extra, Extra

Shots and Goals: "In a show of her resilience in a life marked by trauma, she waved away the medical workers and returned to her desk to continue coordinating an evacuation of players and their families from Kabul, the Afghan capital. Relying on a network she built through her activism, she helped rescue 87 people, including the senior national team. Months later, another 130. Now Popal is on another mission, one that reached its height at this summer's Women's World Cup. She is trying to convince FIFA, soccer's global governing body, to let players on the Afghan women's national team represent their country again." NYT (Gift Article): They Shot at Her. They Forced Her From Her Home. She Won't Stop Fighting for Girls.

+ Meeting of the Mines: The tech overlords got together in DC to come up with a plan to protect us from AI. Thankfully, they have an awesome track record when it comes to making choices for the public good.

+ Libyan Disaster: "Up to 20,000 people are feared dead in Libya's devastated east, with search and relief efforts ongoing Thursday, four days after the coast was pounded by Storm Daniel, submerging neighborhoods and pulling countless residents out to sea." WaPo: Libya struggles to deal with thousands of corpses in shattered Derna.

+ Keeping Up with Jones: "If anything, I like to go to nice restaurants. That is my deal. I like to go on a couple of nice vacations a year, but I think I pretty much have earned that in this fight." Alex Jones spent over $93,000 in July. Sandy Hook families who sued him have yet to see a dime.

+ The Kidney Stays in the Picture: "It marked the longest a genetically modified pig kidney has ever functioned inside a human, albeit a deceased one. And by pushing the boundaries of research with the dead, the scientists learned critical lessons they're preparing to share with the Food and Drug Administration -– in hopes of eventually testing pig kidneys in the living." Pig kidney works a record 2 months in donated body, raising hope for animal-human transplants. (Humans: Yay!. Pigs: Oh...)

+ Mahered Image: "I love my writers, I am one of them, but I'm not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much." Another day, another show host says they're coming back in the air. Today, it's Bill Maher.


Bottom of the News

"With reported beneficial effects on mood, energy, focus, and divergent and convergent thinking, it emerged as a productivity hack to help stressed leaders face day-to-day challenges while still accessing the blue-sky thinking required to keep on creating." Welcome back to the office. And Welcome to the Workplace Shroom Boom.

+ California man arrested for allegedly riding horse while under the influence. (Does it matter as long as the horse was sober?)