June 23rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The fall of the electric guitar, the latest on the health bill, and Weekend Whats.

A few weeks ago, my eleven year-old son grew frustrated with me, stormed up to his room, and picked up a guitar. I felt like it was a breakthrough. He has an ear for music and he was transferring his angst to the six strings. He was thinking, “the hell with you, dad,” and I was thinking, “yes, this is exactly how rock gods are created.” Though I’ve tried to be as irritating as possible since then, I haven’t managed to get him back to the instrument (damn you, Fidget Spinner!). And I’m not alone in my struggle. According to all the numbers, electric guitars are between indie rock and a hard place. From WaPo: Why my guitar gently weeps: “In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt.” Some in the article argue that what’s missing are the guitar heroes of decades past. I have a feeling the drop in guitar sales has more to do with the rise of the iPad. Anyway, with any luck, my son will be so pissed I wrote about him that he’ll have no choice but to rock.

+ The whole time I was reading this article, I had Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero in my head.

+ Want to motivate a burgeoning guitar talent? I’d suggest watching Tom Morello absolutely ripping it during a performance of Ghost of Tom Joad with Bruce Springsteen.

+ If you’re a real guitar nerd, check out Guitar Stories with Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler.


Trial and Care

“I’m cycling between rage and just sadness.” With many Americans currently fixated on health care debate, the NYT takes a look at what happens when a pharma company comes up with a potentially useful drug for a child’s potentially fatal illness — but that drug costs a million dollars a year: Insurers Battle Families Over Costly Drug for Fatal Disease.

+ The NYT Upshot offers up a diagnosis of the issue at the heart of the health care bill: “The Affordable Care Act gave health insurance to millions of Americans by shifting resources from the wealthy to the poor and by moving oversight from states to the federal government. The Senate bill introduced Thursday pushes back forcefully on both dimensions.”

+ Buzzfeed: The new health care bill would mean big cuts for opioid addiction treatment.

+ Women were left out of the room when the Senate bill was created. And they were pretty much left out of the bill itself.

+ A funny thing happened on the way to repeal and replace: A majority of Americans now say they like Obamacare. That’s a first.


Weekend Whats

What to Hear: The New Orleans rocker Benjamin Booker made this section a little over a year ago with his debut album. And he’s back with a new album called Witness that is earning rave reviews. Check it out on Spotify, NPR, or your music source of choice. And here’s Booker in Interview Mag.

+ What to Read: “He rarely went home to his family. At night, he crawled into the back of his cab and slept in the company parking lot. For all of that, he took home as little as 67 cents a week.” USA Today with an exposé on truckers who basically function as indentured servants. Rigged: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing. And from Bloomberg: These truckers work alongside the coders trying to eliminate their jobs.

+ What to Spread: The Atlantic has a podcast on Peanut Butter: “The spread that’s poisonous to a growing number of people also is the basis of a medical therapy that saves the lives of millions of children.”


Eat, Drink, and Be Wary

“Food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation,’ wrote Eugene Wei, a technologist and writer … ‘It’s hard to think of any sphere of American life where the selection and quality have improved so much as food,’ the economist Tyler Cowen, who moonlights as a food blogger, wrote this year. For the first time in US history, Americans are spending more money dining out than in grocery stores.” And yet, it’s a tough time to be in the restaurant business. From Derek Thompson: The Paradox of American Restaurants. (One of theories is that there are just too many great restaurants to choose from. I wonder if we’re heading to a similar glut in TV’s golden age.)


Vlad the Impairer

“The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.” From WaPo, a very interesting look at Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault (and why some top aides feel like the administration sort of choked.)

+ Lots of interesting data in this NBC Poll, including this: “Just 26 percent of Republicans believe Russian interfered with the 2016 election.”

+ “When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean you’ll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.” Trump comments on his decision to make up the story about taping James Comey.

+ “I don’t pursue every attacker, just the ones that piss me off. This pissed me off and, more importantly, it pissed my wife off, which is the real litmus test.” The NYT’s Nicole Perlroth talks to a top corporate chief information officer about the Cyberattack the World Isn’t Ready For.

+ “But those inspections also provide the Russians an opportunity to find vulnerabilities in the products’ source code.” Reuters: Under pressure, Western tech firms bow to Russian demands to share cyber secrets.


Driven to Tears

Everyone is talking about self-driving cars. For many Americans, a better idea would be cars that pay themselves off. From the NYT: The Car Was Repossessed, but the Debt Remains: “More than a decade after Yvette Harris’s 1997 Mitsubishi was repossessed, she is still paying off her car loan.”

+ Want to go beyond the headlines and learn a lot about autonomous cars and the future of transportation? There are few people around who know more about this stuff than my friend Sunil Paul, and he just gave a talk on the topic.


Tangled Up in Blue

“If domestic abuse is one of the most underreported crimes, domestic abuse by police officers is virtually an invisible one … Very few people in the United States understand what really happens when an officer is accused of harassing, stalking, or assaulting a partner. One person who knows more than most is a 62-year-old retired cop named Mark Wynn.” From Highline: The Super Predators. When the man who abuses you is also a cop.


Mind if I Play Through?

“By 2004, many of China’s hundreds of golf courses were found to be built on valuable farmland through corrupt land deals; others were using too much water in parched areas of the country. Most golf clubs were private, exclusive to businessmen who often invited local government officials. As a result, the government has shut down 111 courses — a fifth of all golf courses in China — and it’s banned construction of new courses.” NPR: China’s Government Tightens Its Grip On Golf. (We were sort of hoping they’d tighten their grip on Kim Jung Un…)

+ Slate: In most monstrous act of this or any presidency, Trump drives golf cart on green.


Give Me a Little Space

Feeling like you’re getting a bit overwhelmed by the crowds this summer? Just wait. The UN Says World’s Population Will Reach 9.8 Billion By 2050. Meanwhile, me and Elon Musk are gonna be on Mars absolutely laughing our asses off.


Bottom of the News

Peter von Ziegesar in Aeon, discussing the potential of the orgasm cure. “What if we could expand ecstasy, reduce stress and lift depression, all by delaying and extending orgasm?” (Even if it meant we could have world peace, I still wouldn’t be able to hold out…)

+ Quartz: The future of Snapchat filters could allow you to have virtual sex with whoever you want. (Big deal. I’ve been doing that since junior high.)

+ Meet the man who has been to Disneyland 2,000 days in a row (and doesn’t find that fact to be horribly depressing.)

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