July 31st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

When politics turns to sport, we all lose. Plus, how Paradise was lost and Beyond Meat and the cow tipping point.

All that was missing from night one of Dem debate two on CNN was a tuxedoed Michael Buffer opening the event with his favorite catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” We cover politics the way we cover sports. And then we wonder why our politics have become so ridiculous. It’s not just cable news (although CNN affirmed that the medium is at the core of the problem), the morning-after analysis from print publications was largely focused on landed zingers, who won and who lost, and such critical factors as who got in the most minutes of speaking time. In short, TV treats politics like sports and print increasingly treats politics like TV. For those scoring at home, that’s exactly how we got into this mess. Megan Garber in The Atlantic: CNN Was Ill-Equipped for This. “Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, talks often about his love of sports, and has discussed the ways CNN has incorporated the particular logic of ESPN into its coverage of electoral politics.” (One of the ironies of these debates is that they’ve become the most watched and talked about moments of elections even though they are wholly unrelated to the job. It’s like having a punt, pass, and kick competition to pick a shortstop.)

+ Margaret Sullivan in WaPo: “The worst of Night 1 may have been the format itself, which started with a painfully high-octane video that managed to simultaneously evoke ‘The NFL Today,’ World Wrestling Entertainment, and ‘Jeopardy!’ The debate format is an embarrassment. (If we’re going to focus on the performative aspects of politics, can someone please tell Bernie Sanders that having a microphone means not having to yell.)


Lower Case

From Bloomberg: “The Federal Reserve reduced interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis and hinted it may cut again this year to insulate the record-long U.S. economic expansion from slowing global growth.”

+ “Economists don’t know when the decade-long expansion, now the longest in American history, will end. But here are the indicators they will be watching to figure it out.” NYT: A Recession Is Coming (Eventually). Here’s Where You’ll See It First.



“On this perch of volcanic red earth, where gold mining gave way to logging and logging gave way to apple growing and apple growing gave way to suburbia, a misplaced place had arisen. What to call the experiment? If you counted the sprawl up the mountain that followed the original sprawl on the hill, 40,000 people lived atop a geologic chimney. Though the citizens through the decades were unable to muster the collective will to contain the growth, they did not proceed out of ignorance of the dangers it courted. Rather, they chose to forget about the last drought, the last flood, the last wildfire.” Mark Arax in California Sunday Magazine: Decades of greed, neglect, corruption, and bad politics led to last year’s Paradise fire, the worst in California history. It should never have happened. It will happen again.

+ NYT: For eight hours last fall, Paradise, Calif., became a zone at the limits of the American imagination — and a preview of the American future.


Cow Tipping Point?

“Most offerings made with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are about a buck a burger more expensive. But it’s inherently cheaper to make a burger directly out of plants than it is to feed those plants to an animal first. Beef is currently cheaper because of scale. Big food companies can negotiate tremendously reduced prices for feed, and gigantic factories and supply chains are much more efficient to run. But the playing field is leveling fast.” Outside: This Is the Beginning of the End of the Beef Industry. (Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong vegetarian, so I don’t eat meat and I don’t crave food that attempts to mimic meat. I also cook a mean steak.)


Billie The Kid

“I’ve loved attention my whole life, but I don’t think anyone knows what fame actually is. Because if I did want to be famous — it wasn’t this kind.” (Eye)-Rolling Stone: She’s a 17-year-old superstar who did it her way and doesn’t care what you think — even if she still calls out for mom after a bad dream. Billie Eilish And the Triumph of the Weird. “Eilish was born in December 2001, making her the first artist with a chart-topping album to be born this millennium. She’s so Gen Z, she makes twentysomethings feel ancient. She’s never bought a CD … She’s also probably the only pop star who still sees a pediatrician.”


Financial Aid and Abet

“The parents — including lawyers, educators and a doctor — turn guardianship of their children over to relatives or friends sometimes months before they turn 18. By doing so, the children can then declare themselves financially independent and qualify for aid they would not otherwise receive.” A day after a ProPublica report, the US Department of Education says it wants to stop a student aid fraud scheme where parents give up custody through dubious guardianships.


Matryoshka Dolphin

“He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won Super Bowl titles with the Dolphins in 1972, for a team that finished 17-0, and 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.” Hall of Fame LB Nick Buoniconti has died at 78. He was known for his lossless season, but his relationship to football — from his son’s paralysis to his own battle with CTE — had its share of defeats. His life and experiences are in many ways the story of football in America. SL Price in Sports Illustrated: The Complicated Decline of Nick Buoniconti. “Buoniconti doesn’t explain that he can’t figure out how to knot a tie or towel his back. He doesn’t speak of his increasingly useless left hand, the increasingly frequent trips to the emergency room or how, just a few days earlier at his home on Long Island, he hurtled backward down a staircase and sprayed blood all over the hardwood, screaming afterward at Lynn, ‘I should just kill myself! It doesn’t matter!’ … ‘I feel lost,’ he said. ‘I feel like a child.'”


Prince Harold

Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, West Side Story, Company, Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera… No one had a better Broadway run than Harold Prince. Variety: Harold Prince, Dominant Force in Broadway Musicals, Dies at 91.


Siri Hear Ye

“Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control.” The Guardian: Apple contractors ‘regularly hear confidential details’ on Siri recordings. (They’ll get nothing from my family. We all just stare at our phones in silence.)


Bottom of the News

“After holding on to the mouthpiece for a few minutes, my jaw started to ache from clenching it and my mouth watered uncomfortably. I ended up with a lot of hair in my nose and eyes. It’s tough to find a good posture to lick the cat in a way that’s comfortable for both her and the user for more than a couple of minutes.” The Atlantic: An Offbeat Approach to Bonding With Cats.

+ Wired: Dark mode isn’t as good for your eyes as you believe. (The whole internet is dark mode…)

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