November 5th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Getting ready for November 6.

The day is finally upon us. After nearly nonstop anticipation, excitement, and maybe a bit of trepidation, it is here. At long last, we’re on the eve of November the Sixth: My mom’s 90th birthday. Yes, it’s also election day. And, as it turns out, those two momentous occasions are directly related. A few days after my mom’s 10th birthday in Cologne, she heard the sound of breaking glass downstairs. The horror of Kristallnacht had brought history to her doorstep; and soon hate, bigotry, and injustice would rip her family, her community, and her world apart. In the ensuing years, she would escape to a children’s home in France where love, tolerance, and righteous leadership would help her piece things back together. She came to America, met my dad (a fellow survivor and a fighter with the Partisans), and together they built what is, given their childhood experiences, a wildly successful and shockingly moral life. Over the past few decades, my mom has worked with top educators around the country to create university courses that challenge students to find connections between periods of violent antisemitism and other acts of genocide to better equip society to live up to the mantra: Never Again. So tomorrow is a big day. We’re celebrating the 90th birthday of someone whose personal history made it reasonably unlikely she’d reach her eleventh. And we’re voting in an American election at a moment when antisemitism (and racism, fascism, xenophobia, fear-mongering, etc.) is once again on the rise in places as far as Poland, Germany, and Hungary, and as close as Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. While she understands that everything is political, my mom is far from being a rabid partisan. The morning after Trump’s election, she said, “He deserves a chance to lead.” Well, he’s been given that chance. And politicians across the country have been given the chance to decide how to respond to his brand of leadership. For myself, my mom, and my country, I’ve been disappointed in the results of this unfortunate experiment, saddened by the hateful rhetoric that has come to define our political discourse, and sickened by the lives lost as that rhetoric has materialized into physical violence. With links and comments in this newsletter, I’ve attempted to document the rise of hate across the world and connect that trend to those that preceded the twentieth century’s darkest days. This is in part because I see these kinds of stories emerging more often. But it’s mostly because my parents, who have never suggested such connections before, regularly describe the parallels between today’s political patterns and the ones they experienced during their childhoods. I’m not going to tell you who or what to vote for on Tuesday. And neither is my mom. She’s 90, her back hurts, and she’s been fighting this fight her whole life. Let her eat cake. It’s our turn. What I am asking you, even demanding of you, is that in every checkbox you mark on your ballot, you vote against this burgeoning hate. That’s the best gift you can give to my mom — and your country — on her birthday.

+ A web version of this intro can be found here.


The Midterminator

After you vote and begin chewing your nails to the nub, here’s a run down of races to watch. From GQ: A Field Guide to the Most Competitive House Races in America. From Vox: The 16 most interesting House races of 2018 and the 10 most important Senate elections. And from ABC: 7 key races that tell the story of the 2018 midterms.

+ In the final stretch, the president’s lies have reached a dizzying clip (and we were already pretty dizzy). Meanwhile, as robocalls in Georgia call Stacey Abrams “a poor man’s Aunt Jemima,” Matt Viser explains that these midterms will test whether people not named Trump can win by stoking racial animosity.

+ More than any in recent memory, this has been an election cycle during which great efforts were made to prevent people from voting. Historian Kevin Kruse offers a few reminders about what Americans sacrificed to get full access to the ballot.


Trafficking Jam

“The twins were 7 when Margarito Sr. returned home from prison. He began their tutelage in the drug trade as he resumed smuggling drugs in automobile gas tanks … The twins did as instructed with the fervor and focus of children whose father had materialized after being absent their whole lives … The father could not have foreseen that the twins would far surpass him, becoming the biggest drug dealers in Chicago history while still in their twenties.” He also could not have forseseen that they’d one day be the biggest drug informants ever, and the people who could bring down El Chapo.

+ Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has the right to a speedy trial. And New Yorkers hope he gets just that. Because transporting him to Brooklyn is going to create a traffic nightmare.


Situation Analysis

AP: “The U.S. re-imposed all sanctions Monday on Iran that once were lifted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, grinding further down on the Islamic Republic’s already-ailing economy in what President Hassan Rouhani described as a ‘war situation’ now facing Tehran.”

+ Bloomberg: Xi’s Swipes at Trump Show China Standing Its Ground in Trade War.


It Took a Fortnight to Download

In tech-wealthy communities, parents often struggle with kids who spend too much time on devices and not enough time on homework. But on the other side of the digital divide, the tech-related stress is very different. Parents struggle with kids who can’t keep up because they don’t have the computers and bandwidth to compete. The Atlantic: Why Millions of Teens Can’t Finish Their Homework.


Bin There, Done That

“The effort to silence Saudi critics abroad stretches back decades and over the tenure of several monarchs. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has pursued the practice with an especially ruthless zeal since gaining his position last year.” The Saudi campaign to abduct and silence rivals abroad goes back decades.

+ “The company’s legal team had to double-check that it was even possible to send that much money in a single wire transfer.” Bloomberg: The Inside Story of How Uber Got Into Business With the Saudi Arabian Government.


Domestic Animals

“For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.” NYT Mag: U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. Meanwhile, thousands of US troops are headed to the border to protect us from an imaginary threat. So, as it turns out, are armed militia groups.


A Flu Shot

“Influenza is the ultimate shape-shifter, constantly mutating its appearance to evade our immune system. That is why a new flu jab is needed each winter and why the vaccine sometimes misses the mark. Science is on the hunt for a way to kill all types of flu, no matter the strain or how much it mutates.” That’s where Llamas come in. (I knew this story would come out right after I put all my money into Alpacas…)


Charm … Offensive

“When a few years ago I decided to write a book about charm, I began asking friends and acquaintances if they could name five people in contemporary public life—in show business, television journalism, politics, sports—they thought charming. None could do it …
If I had asked this same question 50 or 60 years ago, the names would have come cascading out … What, during the intervening years, has happened to in effect all but put charm out of business in our time?” Joseph Epstein with an excellent essay: Life’s Little Luxury.


Bottom of the News

“Unexpectedly, her latest track isn’t a paean to staying in with Netflix and pizza, and dancing around to Robyn, but a celebration of masturbation. ‘Making love to myself / Back on my beat,’ she sings, post-breakup.” The Guardian: Why are so many of the greatest love songs about masturbation. (Because, as Diana Ross and Lionel Richie so eloquently explained, it is an Endless Love.)

+ New eras, new questions: Where Do Our Sex Dolls Go After We Die? (I guess now people will know why I chose such a large coffin.)

+ Do you love or loathe coffee? Your genes may be to blame.

+ The Ringer: Is the Era of Voice Texting Upon Us? (Or asked another way: Why must you kids ruin everything?)

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