Thursday, February 13th, 2020


Autocrat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon

About a year and a half ago, I led NextDraft with this: "One of the mainstays of the show Cheers was when everyone in the bar would respond to the entrance of Norm Peterson by shouting, "Norm!" I have a theory that the whole country will chant the same refrain when norms return to the executive branch. But if the past few days are any indication, that theory may not be put to the test anytime soon." What were the norms that were broken that week? Revealed intelligence sources, politically motivated prosecutions, mixing private and government business, foreign interference in U.S. elections, and the undermining the First Amendment. It sounds familiar because it is. We rant, we rave, and the song plays on. Remember when we thought Trump was gonna pivot? Meanwhile, on the other end of the political spectrum, I'm hearing calls for a revolution. At this point, just getting America back towards being a democratic republic would be more than enough revolution for me. Who saw this coming before it even started? Masha Gessen can certainly lay such a claim. This was published two days after the 2016 election. Autocracy: Rules for Survival. This is a long quote, but worth noting: "Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century's accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy. Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s, or Russia does today ... The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution."

+ One of the worrying signals is that the normalization appears to be taking hold even among those who are well aware of this moment's threat to the republic. Politico: Sanders Joins Trump in Telling the Media to Go to Hell (when it comes to releasing his health records): "Even politicians who stand against him on every issue, and who speak solemnly about the need to restore norms shattered during this presidency, are ready to follow trails he has blazed in taking flight from public accountability." And look at this exchange between Trump and Bloomberg. An election reduced to a flame war. Who does that benefit? (Hint, not you.)

+ I know what you're thinking. "Dave, you ignorant putz, don't you know that politics has always been nasty?" Yeah, I know. But the tone of discourse has moved far beyond politics. WaPo: "Since Trump's rise to the nation's highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America."

+ And, sure, Rush Limbaugh has always been despicable, so his latest gay bashing is par for the course. What's not par is that it came less than a week after he was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

+ The state of our discourse brings to mind a Norm Peterson quote from Cheers: "Hey Norm, how's the world been treating you?" ... "Like a baby treats a diaper."


Grabs Popcorn (Lung)

"It sought to get its devices into the hands of the likes of Cara Delevingne, Miley Cyrus, and hundreds of other celebrities and social media influencers. And it bought up ads on kids websites, including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, teen magazines, and others — even some allegedly aimed at preschoolers." Buzzfeed: Juul bought ads on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and other kids websites, a new lawsuit claims.


Sea Lurchin

"Two sprawling metropolitan areas offer a glimpse of the future. One rich, one poor, they sit on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: the San Francisco Bay Area (population 7 million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million). Their history, their wealth, and the political and personal choices they make today will shape how they fare as the water inevitably comes to their doorsteps." An NYT interactive piece: In Manila and San Francisco, Rising Seas Are a Crisis Right Now. (I live on a hill, I own a snorkel, you'll get your NextDraft...)

+ "Have things really begun to happen already? Over the past twelve months we have traveled around the country, looking for answers. Chasing climate change. We didn't expect
to find so much." Something is happening to Norway.


Corona Light?

"The fact that there are so many mild cases is a real hallmark of this disease and makes it so different from SARS. It's also really challenging. Most of our surveillance is oriented around finding people who require medical intervention." Ironically, one of things that is especially tricky about containing the Coronavirus is that it's symptoms are often mild. WaPo: Most coronavirus cases are mild, complicating the response.

+ "Leishenshan Hospital had been touted as a facility capable of treating fifteen hundred patients, but, when it opened, on February 8th, it had only thirty beds. It will almost certainly add more—the city is desperately overstretched—but this sort of gap between hype and reality has strained the Chinese public's faith in official pronouncements about the crisis." Evan Osnos in The New Yorker: China's Iron House: Struggling Over Silence in the Coronavirus Epidemic.


Chile Con Blarney

"Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks dropped nearly 25 percent in the 18 months after Chile adopted a raft of regulations that included advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods, bold front-of-package warning labels and a ban on junk food in schools. During the same period, researchers recorded a five percent increase in purchases of bottled water, diet soft drinks and fruit juices without added sugar." NYT: Sugary Drink Consumption Plunges in Chile After New Food Law. (I just checked a map, and sure enough, Chile does look quite thin)


For Whom The Kell Tolls

"When Vindman heard the president tell Zelensky he wanted to see the Biden family investigated, that was tantamount to hearing an illegal order. We teach them, 'Don't follow an illegal order. And if you're ever given one, you'll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss ... Vindman 'did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave." The Atlantic: John Kelly explained, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump's behavior regarding North Korea, immigration, and Ukraine. Trump said Kelly should keep his mouth shut. (He, and many others, have tried that strategy for long enough.)


Brothers in Arms

"Bill and Frederick said they had been cheated in the settlement and went back to court. In a tangential action, they sued the directors of a family foundation, which included their mother, Mary Koch. In response, Bill said, their mother, who died in 1990, excluded him and Frederick from her will." NYT: Frederick Koch, Who Spurned Family Business, Dies at 86.


Gym Jordan

"Jim Jordan called me crying, groveling… begging me to go against my brother…That's the kind of cover-up that's going on there." Jim Jordan's name comes up during Statehouse testimony on OSU abuse victims bill. Here's some video of the testimony.


Bad Heir Day

"This was some time before Smyth, whose full first name Walton later would learn was Marianne, convinced him that she was an Irish heiress who stood to inherit 5 million euros. In time, she would also mention that she was pals with Ashley Judd; show him a closet full of allegedly thousand-dollar designer shoes; and share that she had a psychic gift. It was years before Walton and others began to suspect that all these boasts were lies, part of an elaborate scheme that ensnared several individuals in the entertainment industry, and left Walton filing for personal bankruptcy." The Hollywood Reporter: The Hollywood Producer, the "Heiress" and a Very Personal Quest for Justice. (I have a very simple rule. If you tell me you have a psychic gift, I don't lend you money...)_


Bottom of the News

NYT: You're Not Listening. Here's Why. "There's an unconscious tendency to tune out people you feel close to because you think you already know what they are going to say." (Counterpoint: It's not unconscious, you're right about knowing what they're gonna say, and you've got a newsletter to write...)

+ Jeff Bezos Sets Record With $165 Million Beverly Hills Home Purchase. (I never even knew they even kept records of who was the most tone deaf, vulgar, and ostentatious person in LA. Congrats on the record!) In case you were wondering, if you make $60,000 a year, that's like spending $75 on a house.

+ Rick Moranis to make Honey I Shrunk the Kids reboot after 23-year break.