Friday, March 8th, 2024


You Kids Get Off My Longevity

During the State of the Union address, Joe Biden basically yelled at Republicans, "Get off my lawn!" And in this case his lawn is the future of democracy and the modern world order. Look, a campaign year State of Union address isn't the kind of thing that's necessarily going to move undecided voters in an election 8 months away. But it can fire up the base (Biden just had his biggest fundraising day) and it can address lingering questions, the primary one in this case being about Biden's age. After last night's speech, described by just about everyone as feisty, the argument that Biden is too old isn't aging well. Here are few more takeaways from the night that The Atlantic's David Graham describes as, The Most Unusual State of the Union in Living Memory (which seems like a particularly low bar since most Americans have not remembered any State of the Union for much longer than about 45 minutes post completion). First, even in these crazy MAGA times, it's notable that we've lived long enough to see a president quote Reagan and only the Democrats clap. But that wasn't the half of it. Biden's speech was heavily combative to be sure, but no matter what he brought up, only half the chamber cheered. "The pandemic no longer controls our lives. The vaccines that saved us from COVID are now being used to help beat cancer." Half. "American roads bridges and highways will be made with American products built by American workers creating good-paying American jobs." Half. "Respect free and fair elections! Restore trust in our institutions! And make clear — political violence has absolutely no place in America! " Half. And when Biden called for more humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the pursuit of a two state solution? Half. Anyway, I haven't told you the half of it, so watch the event for yourself.

+ As much yelling as there was from the podium, there was a lot more in the crowd. WaPo: Mike Johnson asked for ‘decorum.' Republicans ignored him.

+ The night was not without unity. Pretty much everyone seemed to agree that Sen Katie Britt's kitchen counter rebuttal was weird. (Full disclosure, I couldn't stand the heat and got out of the kitchen right after the line, "Good evening America.")

+ Maybe the clearest indicator of what this election is about is Biden opening a SOTU describing the risks to democracy from within contrasted with Trump welcoming Hungary's authoritarian Viktor Orban to Mar-a-Lago. The MAGA model for returning to power and dismantling democracy. (Related: The Republican National Committee on Friday elected Trump-backed Michael Whatley and Lara Trump to take over the committee.")

+ All of this is why I'm currently a one issue voter: Pro Democracy.



"A lengthy Defense Department review of U.S. government activities related to 'unidentified anomalous phenomena,' more commonly known as UFOs, has found no evidence that extraterrestrial intelligence has visited Earth or that authorities have recovered crashed alien spacecraft and are hiding them from the public." WaPo (Gift Article): Pentagon report finds no evidence of alien visits, hidden spacecraft. With plane doors flying open and landing gear tires falling from the air, are UFOs really our biggest concern somewhere out there?


Tik Tok Block Back on Clock

If the election match-up isn't giving you a severe enough case of Deja Vu, there's also the repeat of the 2020 story about politicians looking to ban TikTok. The outcome may be less similar than the set up. Platformer: A new TikTok ban gains steam. "What makes it feel different this time?
One key difference here is speed. It's rare for any legislation, much less a major tech regulation, to be introduced and pass out of committee in two days."


Weekend Whats

What to Book: The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson is "a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us." In addition to being a good story, people I trust say that Robinson gets science right. Need a warmup? Marina Korena in The Atlantic (Gift Article): The Oceans We Knew Are Already Gone.

+ What to Movie: Ease into the blockbustery Oscars weekend with Juliette Binoche in The Taste of Things, a quiet, excellent movie the follows a love story between two chefs and between the audience and food.

+ What to Doc: "America has long obsessed over celebrity and the quest for fame. Thirty years ago, millions of moviegoers got to see that desire up close thanks to the groundbreaking documentary Hoop Dreams, which focused on two teenage basketball players, Arthur Agee and William Gates. The pair never fulfilled their dream of making the NBA, but Agee and Gates ended up making more of an impact than many who did." Hoop Dreams at 30. It was and is a great, timeless documentary. It's available on Max and many other services.


Extra, Extra

Even Aid is Dangerous: "In a video obtained by CNN on Friday, an airdrop goes wrong when the parachute on a pallet malfunctions. The pallet and its contents can be seen falling at a high speed towards a residential building near the Fairoz Towers in western Gaza." At least 5 killed after airdropped aid falls on them in Gaza. Meanwhile, Biden's announced pier to be used to receive aid will take weeks to build. In the meantime, like always, there's World Central Kitchen. Inside José Andrés' risky mission to get food to Gaza. (José Andrés would have been a perfect guest for last night's SOTU address.)

+ Hacking Off: "Though the existence of these hacking contractors is an open secret in China, little was known about how they operate. But the leaked documents from a firm called I-Soon have pulled back the curtain, revealing a seedy, sprawling industry where corners are cut and rules are murky and poorly enforced in the quest to make money." Behind the doors of a Chinese hacking company, a sordid culture fueled by influence, alcohol and sex.

+ Scam Slam: "A record $12.5 billion in losses from online scams were reported to the FBI in 2023, fueled by a surge in cryptocurrency investment fraud." And Wired on a crime we're likely to see whole lot more of. Florida Middle Schoolers Arrested for Allegedly Creating Deepfake Nudes of Classmates.

+ Pencil Eraser: The SAT will be taken entirely online for the first time in the U.S. this weekend. (Oh damn, I just invested most of my portfolio into Ticonderoga.)

+ It's Good to Be the King(dom): "Reid was eventually given a three-year prison sentence, a plea deal down from the maximum seven-year stint. Ariel's family fumed at that, but it only got worse. Like seemingly everything in this story, even meager consequences didn't stick." Former Chiefs assistant (and son of Andy) Britt Reid cut the line into the NFL, now he cut the line out of prison. "Can three Super Bowl victories get your son out of jail early? Perhaps. In Kansas City, the Chiefs run a self-described kingdom. What does a governor matter against that?"

+ Chewing Out? "Gum's bubble burst during the COVID-19 pandemic, when masks and social distancing made bad breath less of a worry and fewer people spent on impulse buys." Candy companies pitch gum as a stress reliever and concentration aid to revive stale US sales.

+ Party of One: "The typical client is either burned out socially or chasing nostalgia that doesn't fit their current lifestyle; whatever they're doing to have fun, the therapy they've done, the personal development work, the wellness mantras—none of it seems to be working. I hear from so many different types of people, including dads, who need to find new ways to let loose. DJs who have cut back on substances and realize they don't have the same social battery that they used to." GQ (Gift Article): Feeling Awkward About Fill-in-the-Blank Social Obligation? Time to Get a Party Coach. (No thanks. I don't don't suffer from FOMO. I suffer from FOBIA, the Fear of Being Invited Again.)


Feel Good Friday

"There was not much to offer the candidates. The pay: $38,000 per year but no recruiting budget or staff. The facilities: a gym whose court is seven feet short of regulation, whose showers don't have running water and whose men's locker room doesn't have a toilet. And another thing: there were no players." Billy Witz in the NYT (Gift Article): This Man Turned the Worst Job in College Basketball Into a Slam Dunk. "South Carolina Salkehatchie had no budget, players or running water in the locker room when Matt Lynch arrived. One season in, the first publicly gay head coach is figuring out how to win, on the court and off."

+ Black couple rented to a Chinese American family when nobody would. Now, they're donating $5M to Black community.

+ Places across the U.S. are testing no-strings cash as part of the social safety net.

+ This recycling robot is saving millions of bottles from the landfill.

+ A 1980s female band whose single was discovered by chance in a second-hand shop have signed a new record deal.

+ Donor gives $40 million for Yellowstone National Park employee housing.

+ Sailor Cole Brauer makes history as the first American woman to race solo around the world.

+ California community comes together to find beloved cat.