Thursday, February 29th, 2024


Close Encounters of the Third Branch

The Supreme Court just stood in the middle of 5th Avenue and shot the Constitution. SCOTUS has decided to hear oral arguments on "whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office." The arguments will take place in April and the decision will come by June. In other words, the chances of a Trump Jan 6 trial concluding before the election is now quite unlikely. Aside from the timing, it's disturbing that the justices would even deign to hear more of the ridiculous arguments that any American, president or otherwise, is above the law. The SCOTUS should have rubber-stamped the ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. To suggest anyone has total immunity flies in the face of every core principle of American jurisprudence from the revolution right through all 23 seasons of Law & Order. Supreme Court hands Trump a huge win before it even hears his case. And Rolling Stone: Trump's Team ‘Literally Popping Champagne' Over Supreme Court Taking Up Immunity Claim.

+ "This isn't a hard case. The substantive argument Trump makes—that presidents are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for anything they do in office and more specifically, for trying to steal an election—has to be a loser. As we've discussed before, if it's not, our claim to be a democracy is no longer viable." Joyce Vance: The Supreme Court Disappoints. Again, this is all less about the final decision and more about the time it takes to get there. And it's hard not to feel that the Judicial Branch has it in for the Scranton Branch. But I've always been dubious of the polling that suggests a Trump conviction will change that many votes. We all saw what happened on January 6 in real time. We all experienced the Trump presidency. Trump's enablers and endorsers know exactly who he is and what he has planned for a second term. In the end, as many have predicted, the future of America will be decided at the ballot box.

+ Scheduling note: NextDraft will be off tomorrow. If the SCOTUS can delay for months, I can delay for one day...


Aid Raid

"Crowds of waiting civilians descended on a convoy of lorries after it passed through an Israeli military checkpoint on the coastal road west of Gaza City. Israel's military said troops fired at some people they thought were a threat. In the ensuing chaos, the lorries attempted to move forward. A Palestinian witness told the BBC that most of those who died were run over." Another brutal tragedy in Gaza. More than 100 reported killed in crowd near Gaza aid convoy. A ceasefire deal just got more urgent and, one assumes, less likely. Here's the latest from CNN.


Mobile Devices

My dad once spent $164 on an electric bass that, aside from the Barney Miller theme, I never really learned to play ... and he never let me forget it, bringing up repeatedly for decades. I can only imagine the earful he'd be giving Tim Cook about the money he spent a car he never drove. "By the time of its death — Tuesday, when executives announced internally that the project was being killed and that many members of the team were being reassigned to work on artificial intelligence — Apple had burned more than $10 billion on the project." NYT (Gift Article): Behind Apple's Doomed Car Project: False Starts and Wrong Turns. (I never got the whole Apple Car strategy. The whole point of having a computer is never having to leave your house.)


Stop the (Wheel) Steal

"Pavlik is part of an unusual army: amateur sleuths who find stolen bikes and return them to their owners. As bike theft becomes more profitable, grassroot efforts to thwart thieves are springing up nationwide. Part wannabe detective, part vigilantes, the volunteers say recovering bikes can be strangely fun and addictive." WSJ (Gift Article): Your Bike Just Got Stolen. These Vigilantes Will Get It Back.


Extra, Extra

Border Follies: On Thursday, the two presidential contenders are making dueling visits to the border. Instead of visiting the border, maybe they should visit Congress where negotiated legislation remains in a MAGA headlock. WaPo (Gift Article): Trump vs. Biden on immigration: 12 charts comparing U.S. border security. Meanwhile, "a federal judge has temporarily blocked a Texas law that would have allowed local police to arrest people suspected of being in the state illegally."

+ Private Chat: "Each of the 4.4 million times someone has typed in words or phrases linked to abuse, a warning message has blocked the page, saying that kind of content is illegal. And in half the cases, a chatbot has also pointed people to where they can seek help." Wired: A P-rnhub Chatbot Stopped Millions From Searching for Child Abuse Videos. (The big story here is how many millions of people search for this kind of material.)

+ Losing Touch "Maybe the extraordinary nature of the current moment is hard to see from inside the United States, where so many other stories are competing for attention. But from the outside ... nobody doubts that these circumstances are unprecedented. Donald Trump, who is not the president, is using a minority of Republicans to block aid to Ukraine, to undermine the actual president's foreign policy, and to weaken American power and credibility." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic (Gift Article): Why Is Trump Trying to Make Ukraine Lose?

+ Ohana Montana: "While the people of Waimea understand that Benioff is behind the recent land purchases, hardly anyone seems to know his plans. Some guess he's building a Salesforce training center and moving in engineers; others say he's generously donating to the community and helping local schools. Most people just shake their heads." A tech billionaire is quietly buying up land in Hawaii. No one knows why.

+ The Weight is Over: Think weight loss medications are big now? Oprah Winfrey Leaves Weight Watchers Board After Disclosing Use of Weight Loss Medication.

+ Rich and Richer: "Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he's been like a brother to me. He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob and for that I'll never forgive him." That's Larry David on comedian Richard Lewis, who died of a heart attack Tuesday at the age of 76. Here's a look at one of his early appearances on Letterman and talking to Rich Eisen on what it's like to dine with Larry David.


Bottom of the News

"After the first issue sold out in two days, the newsagents were clamoring for more copies - so we said fine, but only in four years' time!" Leap year: French readers enjoy world's only four-year newspaper. (Given the news these days, it might be better for my health if I adopted the same publishing schedule.)

+ "Every four years we have a 29 February – apart from those that fall at the turn of a century, unless the year is divisible by 400. This is the messy story of how leap years work."

+ Why leap years exist, explained in one simple animation.