August 27th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Considering McCain's legacy, Life Afta Nafta, and the advantages of white collar crimes.

There were moments when John McCain was sure he’d die a young, tortured man in captivity. Instead, he died with his wife and children at his side 60 years of service later. It was an amazing journey; and a classic and inspiring American life. Yes, you may have had major policy differences with McCain, and yes those policies have real life outcomes. But calling out those differences at this moment risks missing the point of his legacy. You can disagree with John McCain and still respect him. McCain invited his two main political rivals to eulogize him. That’s the point of this moment. In many ways, that’s the point of America.

+ “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment, and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.” McCain’s farewell letter to America.

+ “They are threatening to weaken the Geneva Conventions. I can’t let them do that. I’ll fight them to the end—even if it costs me everything.” John McCain experienced torture and worked towards ensuring others didn’t.

+ “The moment seems to presage the rise of the birther movement, the era of alternative facts and the presidency of Donald Trump less than a decade later.” WaPo’s Greg Jaffe nails it: One moment from McCain’s 2008 run made clear his character and foretold Trump’s rise.

+ “But there’s something underneath politics in the way you have to hear McCain, something riveting and unSpinnable and true. It has to do with McCain’s military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison, mostly in solitary, in a box, getting tortured and starved. And the unbelievable honor and balls he showed there. It’s very easy to gloss over the POW thing, partly because we’ve all heard so much about it and partly because it’s so off-the – charts dramatic, like something in a movie instead of a man’s life. But it’s worth considering for a minute, because it’s what makes McCain’s ’causes greater than self-interest’ line easier to hear.” David Foster Wallace on John McCain.

+ President Trump, always the norm-buster, managed to break new ground once again by losing a personal feud even though the other party died in the middle of it. First, Trump nixed a White House statement following McCain’s death. Second, the White House flag generally remains at half-staff until sitting senators who die in office are buried. Until today. (Thankfully, someone at the White House grew tired of the embarrassment and lowered the flag back down.) On the plus side, all those Americans who love flag controversies finally got a real one…


Life Afta Nafta

“It’s a big day for trade. It’s a big day for our country.” President Trump announced a new trade deal understanding with Mexico during a public speakerphone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Now the challenge is getting Canada to come on board. Trump announces separate U.S.-Mexico trade agreement, says Canada may join later.

+ “Xi only has to fret about public opinion to a point. He doesn’t need to face elections, and enjoys a firm grip on power at the moment. But he has also reached an implicit contract with the Chinese people: Accept his authoritarian rule, and in return watch China become a rich, respected superpower. If that unwritten compact breaks down, so does the justification for Xi’s regime.” Interesting analysis from Michael Schuman in Bloomberg: Trump Paints Xi Into a Corner.


Feel Safer?

“How is the United States made better or more secure by throwing away this family’s eighteen years of law-abiding life in Connecticut? The answer is that we will be no better and no more secure. We will only be more callous, less compassionate, less fair, and we will continue to spin so far from the moral center that we may never find our way back.” In the New Yorker, the excellent (particularly here) Dave Eggers’ tells the story of an immigrant family hiding in a Connecticut church. As regular readers will note, I often end blurbs on this topic with this refrain: (feel safer?). That’s the part that really gets me. Even if you’re a security hawk, why would you want ICE and other agencies focusing on harmless families and border-crossing toddlers instead of actual threats?

+ NYT: Smugglers are making millions of dollars by extorting migrants after sneaking them into the United States and shuttling them from house to house.


Visitation Blights

“Tourists sit in traditional restaurants devoid of locals as they watch other tourists. They are no longer places where people come together, but where divides seem to deepen. At times, it really does feel like a tourist invasion.” Spiegel Online: How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love.

+ Racked: How the Rise of Outdoor Influencers Is Affecting the Environment.


Financial Aid and Abet

Here are basics on one former student’s loan payments. “University of New Mexico (bachelor’s, 2006); University of Minnesota (master’s, 2008); $70,000 owed at graduation; $50,000 paid back so far; $410 paid per month, on average; 12 months of delayed forgiveness because of FedLoan errors; $70,000 still owed today.” MoJo: The Incredible, Rage-Inducing Inside Story of America’s Student Debt Machine. (Regardless of what they study, every college student ends up majoring in finance…)

+ NPR: “In a scathing resignation letter, Seth Frotman, who until now was the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says current leadership ‘has turned its back on young people and their financial futures.'”


Beat Root

“Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the IRS? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization? The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat.” ProPublica: Why Manafort and Cohen Thought They’d Get Away With It.

+ These stories always remind me of this Midnight Run moment.


Smoke and Mirrors

“While the campaign wasn’t targeted specifically at teenagers, a former senior manager said that he and others in the company were well aware it could appeal to them. After Juuls went on sale in June 2015, he said, the company quickly realized that teenagers were, in fact, using them because they posted images of themselves vaping Juuls on social media.” Matt Richtel and Sheila Kaplan in the NYT: Did Juul Lure Teenagers and Get ‘Customers for Life’? (In politics, follow the money. In the startup world, follow the valuation. You don’t get a $15 billion valuation because investors think you’re developing a method to get smoker’s to quit…)

+ “The tobacco industry says it no longer tries to hook new generations of smokers. So what’s behind the legions of beautiful young people in smoking, vaping and partying posts with the same hashtags?” NYT: Big Tobacco’s Global Reach on Social Media.


Curry Up

“I think you teach him to always stay listening to women, to always stay believing in women, and — when it comes to anyone’s expectations for women — to always stay challenging the idea of what’s right. And I think you let him know that, for his generation, to be a true supporter of women’s equality — it’s not enough anymore to be learning about it. You have to be doing it.” Steph Curry: This is Personal.


Islands in the Jetstream

Hurricane Lane spared Hawaii from the worst of its wrath. But, damn, it dropped a lot of rain. “On the Big Island, the town of Mountain View recorded 51.53 inches of rain from Wednesday to Sunday. That’s the third-highest total ever measured from a U.S. storm, with the highest total being the 60.58 inches that fell on Nederland, Texas, over several days during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.”

+ In other words, surf’s up.


Bottom of the News

HuffPo tries to answer a complex question: What’s The Difference Between A $5 White Tee And A $125 White Tee. (I’d say $120, but you can’t hear rimshots via email…)

+ Speaking of perplexing questions, what’s in ranch dressing?

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