Wednesday, October 4th, 2023


National Lampoon’s Vacating

Kevin McCarthy has officially been booted from the gavel pit. It took multiple days and 15 rounds of voting for McCarthy to get the gig in the first place, so maybe it's not surprising that his hammer time only lasted 270 days. Following a motion sickness-inducing motion to vacate by the creep Matt Gaetz and a failure to secure enough votes to survive, Kevin McCarthy maintained his tradition of not telling the truth as he summarized his epically brief run: "I wouldn't change a thing." (Even the accountants who signed Trump's property valuations don't believe that.) In retrospect, maybe Kevin McCarthy should have skipped the trip to Mar-a-Lago and gone to see the Beetlejuice musical instead.

+ "His political assassins, led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, toppled their leader with no plan for what comes next – leaving a hugely important wing of the US government paralyzed for at least a week." McCarthy became the latest victim of Trump's extreme GOP revolution. (He sold his soul for Trump, but when it came time to repay the loyalty, Trump was like, "Meh.")

+ Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic: The Only Sin That Republicans Can't Forgive. "The fall of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy today demonstrated again that the one sin that cannot be forgiven in the modern Republican Party is being seen as failing to fight the Democratic agenda by any means necessary." (Ironically, the extremists needed Dem votes to oust their Speaker. There are always exceptions to the rule when there are no rules.)

+ "Where we are is a country with a solid anti-Trump majority confronting a pro-Trump minority that believes it has a right to rule without concession or compromise." David Frum in The Atlantic: GOP Fantasy Collides With Reality.

+ Interim Job: While Kevin McCarthy was particularly deserving of a downfall, his demise (and the further demise of democratic norms and stability) is nothing to celebrate. America is being damaged and what comes next could be worse. Consider that the first thing interim Speaker Patrick McHenry did was to kick Nancy Pelosi (who is in SF for Dianne Feinstein's memorial) and Steny Hoyer out of their offices. And then there's this headline, that should send chills down the spine of every jacket-wearing American: Jim Jordan Running To Be Next House Speaker.


Taking Coverage

"The world has become an increasingly dangerous place for reporters, but — outside the war in Ukraine — no place is more deadly for them than Mexico. Since the central government began its brutal and chaotic war on drugs in 2006, at least 128 reporters have been killed there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 13 of them last year alone, a chilling record. Mexican journalists have faced phone hacks, death threats, beatings, torture and, in one case, grenade attacks on their newsroom. They face these perils in part because the authorities whose job it is to protect them have in many instances long been infiltrated by the cartels." Nicholas Casey with a detailed look at one newspaper's attempt to cover the news in a Mexican city, where both the cartels and the government present existential threats. NYT Mag (Gift Article): Who Hired the Hitmen to Silence Zitácuaro?



"With limited resources, governments have long seen no other option but to team with Big Pharma to develop vaccines for global scourges. But after the governments pump taxpayer money and resources into the efforts, the companies get control of the products, locking up ownership and prioritizing their own gain." Or, why a Shingles vaccine is widely available while a TB vaccine is on hold. ProPublica: How a Big Pharma Company Stalled a Potentially Lifesaving Vaccine in Pursuit of Bigger Profits.


Mongolian Beef

"The children were shown a table strewn with religious objects. Some of them refused to leave their parents' sides. Others were drawn to the colorful candy that had been placed as distractions. This boy, A. Altannar, was different. He picked out a set of prayer beads and put it around his neck. He rang a bell used for meditation. He walked over to a monk in the room and playfully climbed on his legs. 'These were very special signs,' said Bataa Mishigish, a religious scholar who observed the boy with two senior monks. 'We just looked at each other and didn't say a word.' They had found the 10th reincarnation of the Bogd, one of the three most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism and, for many, the spiritual leader of Mongolia, where nearly half the population is Buddhist." Fascinating piece from the NYT (Gift Article): The 8-Year-Old Boy at the Heart of a Fight Over Tibetan Buddhism. (One one hand, it seems crazy to choose your leader when he's only a toddler. On the other hand, how much better off would we be if this kid ran the House of Representatives?)


Extra, Extra

Gag Reflex: Here's something you never thought you'd see in this lifetime. The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's civil fraud trial on Tuesday issued a gag order after the former president attacked his clerk by name and shared her image on social media. On the same day, Trump learned that he's no longer part of the Forbes 400. And that means a lot to him. Here's a very short blurb from my book that explains how much.

+ Space Oddity: "Dish was meant to move the satellite 186 miles further from Earth, but at the end of its life in 2022 had moved it only 76 miles after it lost fuel." US issues first ever fine for space junk to Dish Network.

+ Me, Myself, and AI: "Tom Hanks, CBS host Gayle King, and Mr. Beast are warning fans not to fall for AI-generated versions of their likenesses being used in fraudulent social media advertisements." (This is going to be a widespread problem.)

+ Menendez Benz: If you thought you knew all the shady, slimy details from the case against Robert Menendez, think again. NYT (Gift Article): Inside the Menendez Indictment: A Mercedes and a Secretive Fatal Crash. "Prosecutors said in those charging papers that Ms. Menendez needed a car so badly after a December 2018 'accident' that the senator, a Democrat, was willing to try to suppress an unrelated criminal prosecution for a New Jersey businessman in exchange for a $60,000 Mercedes convertible."

+ Debt Riddance: "The debt cancellation is the latest push from the White House to erase some student loans in the wake of the Supreme Court's June ruling." Biden admin is forgiving $9 billion in debt for 125,000 Americans. Here's who they are.

+ Kaiser Roles: "Some 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers walked off the job Wednesday in multiple states, kicking off a major health care strike in an extraordinary year for U.S. labor organizing and work stoppages."

+ On the Dot: "Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for their work on quantum dots — tiny particles just a few nanometers in diameter that can release very bright colored light and whose applications in everyday life include electronics and medical imaging." They narrowly beat out the team that created Dippin' Dots.

+ Puff Piece: "U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday proposed raising the legal age that people in England can buy cigarettes by one year, every year until it is eventually illegal for the whole population."


Bottom of the News

A Stanford professor says that the No. 1 phrase people who are good at small talk always use is one I'm quite sure I've never, ever said. Tell Me More. My most common phrase during social interactions is, "My Uber's here."

+ Chipotle tests automation for burrito bowls and salads. (Oh, I'd hate to see Chipotle lose its cultural authenticity.)

+ Metaphor alert: Old newspaper boxes become Narcan dispensers at Ferris State University.