LBN Examiner 10/09/2022


America’s gross national debt exceeded $31 trillion for the first time, a grim financial milestone that arrived just as the nation’s long-term fiscal picture has darkened amid rising interest rates. The breach of the threshold, which was revealed in a Treasury Department report, comes at an inopportune moment, as historically low interest rates are being replaced with higher borrowing costs as the Federal Reserve tries to combat rapid inflation. While record levels of government borrowing to fight the pandemic and finance tax cuts were once seen by some policymakers as affordable, those higher rates are making America’s debts more costly over time.

Velma Is Officially A Lesbian In New ‘Scooby-Doo’ Film:

Velma is officially a lesbian. Clips from the brand new movie “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which show the Mystery Inc. member googly-eyed and speechless when encountering costume designer Coco Diablo, have gone viral on Twitter, confirming suspicions held by the “Scooby” fan base for decades. “OMG LESBIAN VELMA FINALLY,” reads one tweet, which has over 100,000 likes. It’s long been an open secret among fans and “Scooby-Doo” creatives that Velma is gay. Even James Gunn, who wrote the early live-action films, and Tony Cervone, who served as supervising producer on the “Mystery Incorporated” series, have confirmed the character’s sexuality, but they were never able to make it official onscreen.

Praise For Walmart:

Walmart comes across looking good in two new accounts. A book being released in November, “Still Broke: Walmart’s Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism,” by Rick Wartzman, praises the company’s increase in its starting wage, to $12 an hour from $7.25, and improved benefits without completely taking Walmart’s side. And a working paper released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that Walmart has not offset its better pay and benefits by reducing the dignity of jobs. The authors of the paper measure dignity by “autonomy on the job, co-worker relationships and the quality of supervision.”

“Just because a Walmart wage is particularly good in places like Louisiana or Mississippi does not mean that other important job attributes (including how workers are treated) are worse there,” one of the authors, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote in an email. His co-authors are Suresh Naidu and Adam Reich of Columbia University.

Examiner – Lens:

By now you have seen the indelible images from the streets of dozens of cities and towns across the Islamic Republic of Iran. They have found a way out, despite the fact that the regime has been routinely cutting off the internet. Videos of mothers screaming “Damn you Khamenei.” Photographs of women burning their hijabs and dancing around bonfires. A young woman cutting her hair in public while crowds chant “death to the dictator.”

New Study Shows COVID Vaccines Can Temporarily Alter Menstrual Cycle:

Some people experience headaches or sore arms after getting vaccinated. Others may have nausea or swollen lymph nodes. Now, a growing body of research is pointing to yet another potential side effect of COVID-19 vaccines: changes in menstrual cycles. In a study published on Tuesday in BMJ Medicine, researchers reported that, on average, vaccinated people experienced about a one-day delay in their periods compared with those who did not get vaccinated. But like other side effects of vaccines, this change was temporary. One cycle after vaccination, people’s periods tended to return to normal.

Intercepted Russian Soldier Calls Reveal Panic In The Ranks:

Stunning audio intercepted by Ukrainian law enforcement of Russian soldiers calling home reveals potential evidence of war crimes and the rank and file’s pure contempt for Vladimir Putin. In the shocking audio obtained by The New York Times, the soldiers paint a truly dire picture of their circumstance and rage against the man responsible for putting them there. “Putin is a fool,” a soldier identified as Aleksandr said on one call. “He wants to take Kyiv, but there’s no way we can do it.”

“I’ve never seen so many corpses in my fucking life,” added a soldier named Sergey. “It’s just completely fucked.” In one call to his girlfriend, Sergey said that he’d been given an order to kill civilians. “They told us that, where we’re going, there’s a lot of civilians walking around,” he said. “And they gave us the order to kill everyone we see. … they might give away our positions. That’s what we’re fucking going to do, it seems. Kill any civilian that walks by and drag them into the forest. … I’ve already become a murderer. That’s why I don’t want to kill any more people, especially ones I will have to look in the eyes.” On top of their contempt for Putin, the soldiers also blasted their commanding officers. “Fucking higher-ups can’t do anything,” a soldier identified as Roman said. “Turns out, they don’t really know anything. They can only talk big in their uniforms.”

Examiner – Lens:

It takes a decent man to create a cruel world. It’s difficult to imagine the 55-year-old Vince Gilligan – soft-spoken, gracious, and exceedingly modest – lasting too long in the violent, bleached-out New Mexico that he put onscreen. The universe of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” two of the century’s most highly acclaimed shows, is a place where men become monsters. “It’s like watching ‘No Country for Old Men’ crossbred with the malevolent spirit of the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’” Stephen King once wrote.

EXAMINER – COMMENTARY by Kat Rosenfield:

(Pop Culture and Political Writer, Novelist, and Podcaster)

** This Is Fine: Mortgage rates surged to a 15-year high of 6.7% this week, while the S&P 500 plunged to its lowest level since 2020. Thank God we have the Inflation Reduction Act (which, uh, won’t reduce inflation). White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre assured reporters last Friday that the stock market is “just one measure of the economy,” adding that “it’s also important to look at what’s happening on Main Street.” Meanwhile, on Main Street …

** Berkeley Law Bans Pro-Israel Jews: Nine different affinity groups at Berkeley’s law school – including the Women of Berkeley Law and the Queer Caucus – have promised not to invite any Zionists to speak on campus, by which they mean the vast majority of Jews, according to Gallup. The move is hardly a surprise given the school’s track record, but it is yet another sign of a deeply troubling development on American campuses. Progressive groups seem to be moving past their focus on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which purported to only hold their institutions to anti-Israel standards, and instead are just targeting specific people (three guesses who this affects most!) for their identity. This is happening on the East Coast, too. Two Jewish students at SUNY New Paltz lodged a federal complaint alleging that the school failed to address antisemitism on campus last year. When a professor at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College likewise complained of Jew hate on campus, the administration assigned a former director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations – yes, the organization with leaders allegedly connected to Hamas – to investigate. She was later taken off the case.

** Not-so-peaceful protests: Dozens of cities across Iran are witnessing their seventh day of fierce, furious mass protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman at the hands of Iran’s “morality police.” Mahsa Amini died on September 16 in Tehran after being arrested and beaten by police for the crime of “unsuitable attire.” In other words, she was flouting the medieval Islamic Republic laws that require women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing in public. (The police have denied mistreating Amini and claim she died of a heart attack. Amini’s family say that she was healthy with no history of heart trouble, and that authorities prevented them from seeing her body before she was buried.) Amini’s death was a spark in a tinderbox of long-standing unrest: young Iranians are increasingly rejecting the regime’s strict religious laws, its intolerance for dissent, and its merciless treatment of its citizens – especially women. Videos, mostly shot on phones, have been emerging all week of scenes both inspiring and brutal: women burning their hijabs and hacking off their hair in protest to the sound of cheers; police on motorcycles surrounding and beating women who dare unveil; and angry citizens facing off with cops on the streets, tear gas thick in the air.

** Putin has problems: It’s safe to say that the war in Ukraine isn’t going the way Putin imagined when he hatched his plans for invasion while sitting at a comically large table. Ukrainian troops have retaken crucial territory in the east, as many as 80,000 of Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, and Putin just called up another 300,000 troops, a move that Russian citizens are not happy about. The sense that Putin is in over his head and losing ground is also emboldening more Russians to speak openly against the war, including pop star Alla Pugacheva, who condemned “the death of our boys for illusory goals” in an Instagram post. Obviously, nobody is going to win this war anytime soon, but Ukraine has to be feeling good about the general direction of things. And while rumors began swirling about a chaotic mass exodus from Russia after the conscription announcement, according to Finland’s border guards, they’re handling it. C’mon, Russians! Don’t you want to defect to the land of lingonberries, reindeer jerky, and a hot prime minister who loves to party?

** Stacey Abrams: science denier? Here’s Stacey Abrams explaining that fetal heartbeats aren’t a thing, actually: “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body,” she says, as everyone around her nods in somber agreement.

Examiner – Lens:

Rina Sawayama’s debut album came out early in the pandemic, but still attracted a passionate fan base and famous admirers.

Examiner – (Notable) Remarks:

** If you’ve been paying attention to the social trends, you probably have some inkling that boys and men are struggling, in the U.S. and across the globe. They are struggling in the classroom. American girls are 14 percentage points more likely to be “school ready” than boys at age 5, controlling for parental characteristics. By high school two-thirds of the students in the top 10% of the class, ranked by G.P.A., are girls, while roughly two-thirds of the students at the lowest decile are boys. In 2020, at the 16 top American law schools, not a single one of the flagship law reviews had a man as editor in chief. —- David Brooks

** At the heart of Brexit was, it is now becoming ever clearer, a contradiction. For some on the economically liberal right, it was a chance for Britain to wrest free from becoming a highly regulated, highly taxed province of the European Union. It was a chance to create what the EU always feared: a low-tax, deregulated Singapore-on-Thames that would snag more business investment and realize its Thatcherite potential. For others – call them Red Tories – it was a way to preserve the nation, to listen to working-class voters who felt they had become the victims of the free market and free movement of labor across Europe, and to return to a conservatism that sought to protect rather than liberate. Boris Johnson represented both wings – he had a liberal mind but a Tory gut. And his emphasis on more public spending, redistribution of wealth from South to North (“leveling up”), new infrastructure projects, and pissing off EU technocrats all pointed toward a much broader coalition for the right. He won a stonking majority on those grounds, re-branded the Tory party, and provoked writers like me to grapple with a new bigger-state Toryism, much more similar to its Disraelian past than its Thatcherite inheritance. It was a risk – but one that reflected a genuine shift among many ordinary people, responding to the catastrophic success of the Thatcher/Blair revolution. And his charisma and charm sold it. —- Andrew Sullivan

** In short, Putin is eroding the biggest source – maybe his only source – of sustainable long-term income. At the same time, his illegal annexation of regions of Ukraine guarantees that the Western sanctions on Russia will stay in place, or even accelerate, which will only accelerate Russia’s migration to failed-state status, as more and more Russians with globally marketable skills surely leave. I celebrate none of this. This is a time for Western leaders to be both tough and smart. They need to know when to swerve and when to make the other guy swerve, and when to leave some dignity out there for the other driver, even if he is behaving with utter disregard for anyone else. It may be that Putin has left us no choice but to learn to live with a Russian North Korea – at least as long as he is in charge. If that is the case, we’ll just have to make the best of it, but the best of it will be a much more unstable world. —- Thomas L. Friedman

** I’m not worried about “civil war.” The voices calling for war are engaged in Twitter posturing and tough-guy LARPing. They’d be the last people to risk their lives in a real conflict. But I am concerned about a disturbed person (or persons) deciding to take the law into his own hands – on the basis of nothing more than layers of pre-existing grievance mixed with wild speculation. This is a perilous time. We can’t control much, but we can decide – to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling – to keep our heads about us, when everyone else is losing theirs. It will be a small act of service to the country we love. —- David French, senior editor at The Dispatch, a columnist for Time, and a member of Persuasion’s Board of Advisers

** This cornucopia of free money has contributed to a culture of laziness that has resulted in the greatest labor shortage in the United States in over a generation. People simply became accustomed to not working – and quite liked it. White-collar employees enjoyed “working” from home with a measurable downtick in how much they were actually completing work, in my experience. So far, we’re still early in the process of formally studying it, and the existing evidence is mixed. —- Vivek Ramaswamy, founder and executive chairman of Strive Asset Management (Essay adapted from his book “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence,” published by Hachette Book Group.)

Examiner – Readers Have Spoken:


We asked Examiner readers in all 50 of the United States and in 26 foreign countries for their thoughts. The Examiner readers have spoken.


** Study links cleaner air to more frequent hurricanes; a 50% decrease in particulate pollution led to a 33% increase in Atlantic storm formation over the past few decades. READ

** Is College Worth It? – Data suggest what you study in college – and how long you take – often matters more than where you attend. WATCH

** An archive of interviews with people who lived in the 1800s. WATCH

** Surgery – Butt lifts are booming. Recovery is no joke. READ

** Visualizing the $16T of U.S. consumer debt. READ

** Bookkeeping – Nigeria seizes 1.8 tons of cocaine, valued at $278M, in the country’s largest bust. READ

** China is on track to sell about six million electric vehicles this year, more than every other country combined.

** Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, fearing a war between Russia and NATO, refuses to send Ukraine tanks.

** The world’s grumpiest cat. WATCH

** “Our offense has stalled. We’re losing this war.” Russian soldiers made thousands of calls from the battlefield to relatives at home.

** What the world looks like with 8 billion people. READ

“Intel for Influencers” – Who Reads the LBN Examiner?

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Air Force Gender-Inclusive Training Tells Cadets To Not Use ‘Mom,’ ‘Dad’:

No more letters home to Mom. Air Force cadets are being told to address people in ways that “include all genders” – dropping the use of “boyfriend or girlfriend” and even “mom and dad.” Diversity and inclusion (D&I) training at the Air Force Academy in Colorado includes instruction on how to “use inclusive language,” according to documents. “Use words that include all genders,” the training material tells cadets, warning them to “ask” people what they “call themselves” rather than assuming. Instead of saying “you guys,” cadets are told to use gender-neutral terms like “team,” “squaddies,” “folks” and even “y’all.” “Some families are headed by single parents, grandparents, foster parents, two moms, two dads, etc.: consider ‘parent or caregiver’ instead of ‘mom and dad,’” the presentation states, telling cadets to “recognize diverse family formation.” Equally, they are told to use “partner” rather than “boyfriend or girlfriend.”

Fauci’s Net Worth Soared To $12.6+ Million During Pandemic – Up $5 Million (2019-2021):

Last night, auditors at received Dr. Anthony Fauci’s FY2021 financial disclosures from the National Institutes of Health. The documents contain a wealth of previously unknown information. For example, the Fauci household’s net worth now exceeds $12.6 million – up $5 million from 2019 through 2021. In January 2022, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall forced open Dr. Anthony Fauci’s unredacted FY2019 and 2020 financial disclosures.

Make Up Your Own (Damn) Mind

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Examiner – Business:

** Toymaker Lego sees revenue grow 17% to $3.5B in the first half of 2022. READ

** Prison time: Former eBay execs were sentenced for cyberstalking and harassing the publishers of a critical ecommerce newsletter with live insects and death threats. READ

** Walgreens’ robotic prescription centers, now serving 1.8K stores, could cut costs and allow pharmacists to focus on patient services. READ

Examiner – Reader Poll:


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Examiner – 20 Years – A Look At 2002

The LBN Examiner was founded on June 1, 2002, an incredible 20 years ago. Let’s take a look back at what was going on in 2002:

** On October 2, the Beltway sniper attacks began. It extended over three weeks.

** On October 10, Vernon L. Smith and Daniel Kahneman were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences.

Examiner – A Different View:…

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