All Things Pre-considered: Jake’s Takes

What I’ve learned from this experiment so far is that thinking about the stories of the day before you listen to them makes them much more meaningful. I also have a more lasting memory of their content.

1.    What the Justice Clarence Thomas scandal says about ethics on the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices have a privileged position in our government. They have virtually unlimited tenure. They have no term limits. That doesn’t mean that they are above the law, however. Recent ethical violations have come to light implicating Clarence Thomas in a series of scandals involving what amounts to bribes. USA Today reports that “Thomas has accepted lavish gifts from the billionaire Dallas businessman nearly every year.” Harlan Crow is a GOP funder who has been giving Thomas gifts for over 20 years. They have had so much leisure together there is even a painting featuring them in a group of conservative businessmen smoking cigars. This painting is housed at Harlan Crow’s vacation home in the Adirondacks and was highlighted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a series of tweets showing the painting and explaining the concentration of influence pictured therein.

2.    California’s destructively wet winter has a bright side. You’ll want to see it. I’ve been admiring the wildflower bloom here in Santa Cruz. I’ve been photographing them all Spring, but I recently found an amazing field with more wildflowers than I knew were native to the area. I’m doing a Mother/ Daughter Photoshoot this Sunday and I’m excited to see how the space works for portraiture.

3.    U.S. makes evacuation plans to get embassy staff, but not all Americans, out of Sudan. I’ve been thinking about the situation in Sudan, as it is a hot spot in North Africa currently. If they are evacuating the Foreign Service workers, then it must be growing very dangerous. It is an area of the world that has been subjected to food shortages due to drought and it is very concerning to hear that on top of the already difficult conditions there is now the added layer of fighting.

4.    Colorado startup says it has a viable smart gun that only shoots for registered user. Sometimes tech solutions are good, sometimes they are not. In this case, making guns safer, I don’t think it is going to make much of a difference. There are so many guns in this country, it is bonkers to comprehend. This sounds more like an entrepreneur’s vision rather than someone who is concerned with public safety, but it could be both. The problem is, it is very easy for anyone to register for a gun, so it is unlikely to stop much of the violence that plagues our culture. Even if all guns moving forward were mandated to have this device, there are still hundreds of millions of guns in the wild.

5.    Twitter once muzzled Russian and Chinese state propaganda. That’s over now. The debate over freedom of speech rages on as Twitter takes a hands-off approach to censorship. It can be confusing to understand what is fact and what is fiction in the digital age, but how many people are really reading that much anyways? What harm is that propaganda going to do, and how do we compare to them? What is news or propaganda is a judgment call. I think that if media outlets are not calling for violence, they should be allowed to post whatever they want. We must return to some kind of personal responsibility when it comes to consuming news.

6.    New Mayan discovery at an ancient site in Mexico is another clue into their past. This is great news. The disappearance of the Mayan culture is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Americas. We know that they existed, but we don’t know why they disappeared. The more we can understand about the history of this hemisphere, the better. It is in our best interest to investigate all leads into the past.

7.    ‘It’s about time’: How ‘Indian Matchmaking’ found love – and success – on Netflix. I don’t watch much Netflix, but I would be interested in checking this out. I want to know more about Indian culture. India has a history that goes back to ancient times, and they are quickly becoming the world’s most populated country. One of the oldest, and one of the biggest, but also one of the most underrepresented in our culture, I am looking forward to learning more about this show and Indian culture in general.

8.    Guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela continue to expand their sound on new album. I absolutely love this duo. They got their start playing on the sidewalk together and in various places in public, for tips. Since then, they have played their way to the top of the contemporary guitar circuit mixing Flamenco style with other genres in exciting and novel ways.

9.    Supreme Court set to weigh in on availability of abortion pill mifepristone. By now, the court has ruled to keep it available. David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times writes: “The Supreme Court on Friday ruled for the Biden administration to preserve legal access in most of the nation to an abortion pill that is part of the most common method of ending early pregnancies.” This is important because it makes it possible for doctors to prescribe the medication to their patients and to potentially avoid having to perform surgical procedures instead.

10. A Philly school helps its students to process — and speak out against — gun violence. Imagine feeling so powerless and powerful simultaneously to resort to shooting someone. The world is not full of good or bad people. It’s situational. Schools are supposed to provide kids with a safe and supportive environment where they can learn and develop the skills to change their situation. Facing the daily prospect of gun violence traumatizes even grown adults. Speaking out seems risky. Let’s make schools safe and a place where kids can transform their lives into productive and empowered ones.

11. Unearthing legendary Baltimore jazz performances. Jazz music is key to understanding U.S. American culture. Out of the molten mass of historical violence and personal rage these mountains of art were formed. The power of art, and music specifically, is mighty. Through art, pain and confusion are transfigured into a performance that teaches us how to feel. It instructs us about our own humanity and inspires us to empathize with our own feelings. How is it possible that we should be so out of touch with how we feel? Alienation from the self is more the rule than an exception. That disconnect is primary and requires action to reconfigure, to reconnect. Why do so many artists use drugs and die from overdose even after they have attained commercial success? Once you have gained access to how you feel, there’s no turning back.

12. Amid violence and desperation, people in Sudan are still making their voices heard. What does it mean to be heard amidst gunfire? When the landscape is struck with the awful percussion of mortar rounds, what sounds can humans make? Surely AI has no creative answer for the anguish caused by brothers fighting lethal battles on opposing sides of a conflict. What could Chap GPT possibly write to console a daughter who has lost her beloved father? This is a human tragedy and how people manage to express themselves during the worst moments of their lives matters. This is at the root of our collective experience.

13. Jimmy Butler connects over coffee with Bucks fan. If only the world was coffee and basketball. What a wholesome vision that is. Two uplifting forces stimulating us to hustle after our goals. Basketball is Jazz. No sport reveals more beauty and fluidity. It is a fast-moving non-contact sport. You cannot resort to violence to win this game. You must out-maneuver your opponent with speed, guile, and grace. When these things align, the spectator gets to witness the style of a champion. Coffee is the most benevolent of all drugs. It brings the weary traveler in life hope and energy. One can imagine after a morning cup a world of fair trade and organic farming revolutionizing the globe. One can envision an army of coffee fueled warriors gearing up not to fight but to manage the forests. Climbing steep hills, collecting the fuel into piles, performing controlled burns or some other better solution: these are happy and hopeful activities that require good people and good energy. This kind of work if well rewarded will also make good people. There is no shortage of need for this combination.

14. Will interest rates drop? One economist radically changed his mind on the subject. If there’s any place we could use some help from AI it is in making sense of the befuddling world of the Central Bank and their attempt to control inflation through raising interest rates. Nobody seems to fully understand how this works, or if it does. Every day, the market responds in a different way often reversing mid-trading. This is due to the combined efforts of countless buyers and sellers attempting to maximize gains and to minimize losses. All of the self-interested money-motivated energy can’t figure out what will happen in the big picture for the long run.

15. Why regional Mexican’s current explosion catapults the genre to new heights. We use music to think, feel, and believe differently. Various genres develop from the concentration of these qualities. Heavy Metal music makes me feel rebellious, ready for violence, unafraid of hell. I’ve never been much of a Heavy Metal listener myself, but when it is called for nothing else can do the same trick. I’m not surprised that regional Mexican music is having a hay day since it is unrelentingly upbeat and romantic. People want to feel energetic and oriented towards the amorous. Music is a powerful fuel, a potent drug, and its main effect is to train our brains in a certain direction. It modifies our mood and our behavior. Culture conditions the public’s attitude and public opinion shapes musical trends. It is a back and forth configuration of influence that tells us so much about our times.

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