Thursday, October 19th, 2023


Topic Thunder

In order to avoid interpersonal clashes, there are two topics everyone knows to avoid: politics and religion. No subject mixes those two subjects into a more toxic brew than the world's continually re-infected, cureless open wound; a conflict so divisive and enduring that the phrase Peace in the Middle East is more often used as a sad punchline about something unattainable than as a hopeful prognostication. The violence and death associated with the conflict is confined to a relatively small area, but the emotional strife stretches across the globe. Nowhere has that been more visible than on American college campuses, where tension is widespread, donors are furious, and universities are struggling to find responses. But let's focus instead on two Berkeley professors who couldn't disagree more about the Middle East crisis, but who did find common ground when it comes the tone of campus discourse. The two educators came together to release a joint statement, about which one of them explained: "We're not asking people to change their minds on the issue. We're asking people to recognize that you don't need to hurt or confront the other in an (aggressive) way to make your point of view land." SF Chronicle: Two UC Berkeley professors have clashed on Israel-Palestine. War led them to a joint message. It's a small, hint of decency in a world of big, indecent acts. It's not peace in the Middle East. But at least, for a moment, it's peace in Berkeley.

+ Israel prepares for a ground invasion, Palestinians in Gaza await international aid, Biden plans Thursday night speech. Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and NBC.


Kraken the Case

As I've mentioned, these days I'm a one-issue voter. That issue is democracy. And today seems to be a relatively good day for American democracy and a bad one (perhaps, ominously so for some) for insurrectionists. First, at least for now, Jim Jordan's quest to become the Speaker of the House is on hold. This means that also on hold is my nonstop projectile vomiting, but the nausea remains since the United States still has no functioning House. Here's the latest on the House speaker race. (Even though Jordan has been defeated by 20 and 22 votes in subsequent votes, he says he still plans to win the race. I guess it's hardly breaking news that Jim Jordan won't accept the results of a fair vote.)

+ In other insurrectionist news, lawyer Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to reduced charges Thursday over efforts to overturn Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 election in Georgia. "As part of the deal, she will serve six years of probation, will be fined $6,000 and will have to write an apology letter to Georgia and its residents. She also recorded a statement for prosecutors and agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials."

+ The Atlantic (Gift Article): What Sidney Powell's Deal Could Mean for the Fulton County Case Against Trump. "The Kraken has been released—on probation."


The High Costa Living

"They commiserate over the agony of swollen joints. They discuss the drugs both keep in boxes by their beds. And they talk over the treatment they receive to keep the cruel bouts of rheumatoid arthritis at bay. That's where the Costa sisters' shared stories suddenly diverge." That's because one sister lives in America and the other sister lives in Portugal. This is another enlightening piece in a series on America's life expectancy crisis from WaPo (Gift Article). A Tale of Two Sisters, Two Countries and Their Health Systems.


Good Conversation

No one has spent more time studying the toxic divides on social media platforms than Deb Roy and his colleagues at MIT's Center for Constructive Communication. For my book Please Scream Inside Your Heart, their group provided me with invaluable data to illustrate how segmented we are in terms of the news that we consume and share. But the Center for Constructive Communication isn't just about explaining how social media plays a role in dividing us, they're also working on developing better social platforms that promote healthy communication. Great, interesting stuff from Deb Roy in The Atlantic (Gift Article): The Internet Could Be So Good. Really. "The bottom line is this: We need to see and hear the humanity in others for democracy to function. We can and should create social networks designed for public discourse that prioritize inclusion, where underheard voices and perspectives can flourish, and where people take and offer disagreement in good faith. Ad-supported social media is not the only game in town, nor should it be."


Extra, Extra

Climate Change for a Dollar: Forget politics and follow the money. Insurance companies know climate change is making more places inhabitable. They also know how profitable the causes for that reality can be. "Even as climate change is remaking the American map, prompting insurance companies to shed the risk posed by rising heat and water, those same companies have not stopped underwriting the oil-and-gas projects that are stoking that risk. Understanding risk may be at the core of insurers' business, but right now the reward for investing in fossil-fuel companies still overrides any pressure to avoid supporting the industries that make climate change worse." The Hypocrisy at the Heart of the Insurance Industry. I'm not sure it's hypocrisy. On one hand, it's about saving money. On the other hand it's about making money.

+ When the Lights Go Down in the City: "A tour of downtown San Francisco today, its streets packed, its bars busy, can seem an odd me-or-your-lying-eyes experience. By many measures, San Francisco is the safest it has ever been. Violent crime is a third of what it was in 1985, and currently twenty per cent below the average of twenty-one major American cities. The city has a triple-A credit rating. Most of its residential neighborhoods are clean and green and bustling. With the exception of the Tenderloin, the neighborhood from which most dire imagery comes, a walk through San Francisco is a stroll around an affluent Pacific capital of small bookstores and night markets and weekend festivals—so much so that one can almost wonder where the idea of a city in decline emerged." Nathan Heller in The New Yorker with a realistic assessment of San Francisco's post pandemic challenges and a realistic challenge to the doom loop assessment made by those in other places that are less beautiful and less cool (both in terms of weather and attitude). What Happened to San Francisco, Really?

+ Burial Plot: Amazon will start testing drones that will drop prescriptions on your doorstep, literally. (It won't be long before they're dropping pills directly down your throat.)

+ Paulie: He is of course best known for his great portrayal of Paulie in the Rocky movies. But Burt Young had a lot of other memorable roles as well. Burt Young, Who Played Paulie in ‘Rocky' Films, Dies at 83.

+ An Ace Up Both Sleeves: "Amid a season full of what they've referred to as adversity and distractions, the Aces joined the Houston Comets (1997-2000) and Los Angeles Sparks (2001-02) as the only franchises to win multiple championships in a row." Aces edge Liberty to secure 2nd straight WNBA championship.


Bottom of the News

Chuck Grassley might not seem like much of an aphrodisiac, but his office has become a terrestrial dating app. Chuck Grassley crowned 'matchmaker' after 20 staff marriages.

+ Is there any story, no matter how big or small, that doesn't have a Taylor Swift angle? Not that we know of. Taylor Swift's Bodyguard Has Landed in Israel to Fight Against Hamas.