Thursday, August 6th, 2020


The Ai Wei Wei Forward

The ideas was pretty simple and sounded pretty good at the time. Get China to open its economy and embrace capitalism, and the democratic institutions and values would follow. But things haven't played out how we expected in the decades since Tiananmen Square. The capitalism surely changed China's trajectory and quality of life. But the values that changed may have actually been ours. Artist and activist Ai WeiWei with a history lesson and some thoughts on today's showdown. Think 'sanctions' will trouble China? Then you're stuck in the politics of the past. "Did capitalist competition, that ravenous machine that can chew up anything, change China? The regime's politics did not change a whit. What did change was the US, whose business leaders now approached the Chinese dictatorship with obsequious smiles. Here, after all, was an exciting new business partner: master of a realm in which there were virtually no labor rights or health and safety regulations, no frustrating delays because of squabbles between political parties, no criticism from free media, and no danger of judgment by independent courts. For European and US companies doing manufacture for export, it was a dream come true."


Aftermath Homework

"If white-collar workers are told the downtown office is forever optional, some will take their superstar-city jobs out of superstar cities. That much is obvious. But these shifts, even if they are initially moderate, could lead to more surprising and significant changes to America's cultural, economic, and political future." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic: The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically. How this period of millions working from home reshapes America will be one of the most interesting stories to watch once this pandemic nightmare ends. I'm a bit of a contrarian on this. I have a feeling, once this is in our rearview mirror, things will return to normal more quickly than people expect. That said, my beagles are going to be pretty bummed when I start going back to my office.


Lebanon Sequitur

"The blasts could not have come at a worse time for the country. They may mark the end of modern Lebanon as we know it. The physical signs are everywhere: once famed for its robust night life and rich cultural outlets, Beirut recently has had no electricity for up to twenty hours a day. Rescue efforts were hampered by the power outages. Rancid garbage lines streets and fills open spaces, owing to squabbling among political factions over which of their allies should get the contract to collect it. Potable water is often in short supply." The New Yorker's Robin Wright: After Twin Explosions, an "Apocalypse" in Lebanon. "The political aftershock from the explosions in Beirut—and the criminal negligence that they exposed—will be much bigger than the disaster itself."

+ And the disaster itself is enormous. NYT: Blame for Beirut Explosion Begins With a Leaky, Troubled Ship. "The ship was trailed by debts, crewed by disgruntled sailors and dogged by a small hole in its hull that meant water had to be constantly pumped out. And it carried a volatile cargo, more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate."

+ One of the more shocking videos you'll see. Bride's photoshoot interrupted by massive blast. And photos from the scene.


Rx Post Facto

Both Facebook and Twitter removed posts by the Trump campaign for violating rules against spreading coronavirus misinformation. What was the offending material? Trump's own words suggesting that kids are almost immune to Covid-19. (If we're gonna make shit up, can't we limit it to the shit that won't cost lives?)

+ Trump campaign uses altered photos of Biden in new ad.

+ Remember all those attacks on voting by mail? Well, they were having an unexpected effect in Florida. So now voting by mail there is encouraged.

+ Florida voters overwhelming supported restoring voting rights for those with felony conviction. Instead, tens of thousands of people remain disenfranchised.


There’s No Dying In Baseball

"Any covered individuals — whether players or club staff — who are found to have repeatedly or flagrantly violated the protocols, including refusing to wear a face covering when required and reminded to do so risks being prohibited from further participation in the 2020 season and postseason." Baseball is America's pastime. And its other pastime is not wearing masks when required.

+ NPR: Wearing A Mask Could Be Even More Important Than We Thought. It protects others from you. It might also mean that if you get Covid, it will be a more mild case.

+ Speaking of Covid, masks, and symptoms... yesterday's email edition of was missing the link for the NYT interactive, Could My Symptoms Be Covid-19? (I just didn't want you to worry...)

+ "As part of the standard protocol to greet President Trump on the tarmac in Cleveland, I took a COVID test. I tested positive. I have no symptoms at this time. I'm following protocol and will quarantine at home for the next 14 days." Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus.


A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

WaPo on how parents are feeling about the Fall (I mean the Autumn, not the collapse). "Most American parents think it's unsafe to send their children back to school given the risks of the novel coronavirus, and more than 80 percent favor holding school at least partly online, according to a Washington Post-Schar School survey conducted by Ipsos. But parents also express serious concerns with online schooling and many are drawn to systems that mix the two." I'm endlessly bummed that my son will be starting high school on Zoom (and he's not that excited about staring at my balding head rising behind this laptop). But when it comes to this story, it pays to look back before we look forward. My kids should be attending school in person this Fall. So should yours. This is a self-inflicted wound, inflicted by the same administration ordering you to send your kids into germ warfare.

+ WaPo: A Mississippi town welcomed students back to school last week. Now 116 are home in quarantine. This is education. So for eff's sake, learn from these examples.

+ The truth behind a viral picture of a reopening school is worse than it looked.


Shock and Law

"In a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney's office cited 'public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud." Trump's Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry. (A lot more is at stake for Trump than the White House gig.)

+ Biden on Trump's legal issues: "Look, the Justice Department is not the president's private law firm. The attorney general is not the president's private lawyer. I will not interfere with the Justice Department's judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue the prosecution of anyone that they think has violated the law." (Most of the cases are at the state and city level anyway...)

+ And the investigations know no borders. The Biggest Trump Financial Mystery? Where He Came Up With the Cash for His Scottish Resorts. "Scottish lawmakers are pushing to peer into Trump's finances using an anti-money-­laundering statute typically employed against kleptocrats, oligarchs, and crime kingpins."


Charge Dodger

"Wireless chargers lose a lot of energy compared to cables. They get even less efficient when the coils in the phone aren't aligned properly with the coils in the charging pad, a surprisingly common problem." OneZero: Wireless Charging Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen. (Unless its issues are fixed before it goes fully mainstream...)


Developing Story…

"Cars pulled up to the Fotomat location and dropped off film they wanted processed. After being shuttled via courier to a local photo lab, it would be ready for pick-up the following day. And aside from selling film and a foray into renting videocassette tapes, this was all Fotomat did." Overexposed: A History of Fotomat. We had one in my town. The interesting part is watching how the tiny huts are used by current companies like coffee drive-thrus, etc. Just the other day I was telling my wife I should rent the one near my childhood house and write NextDraft there.


Bottom of the News

"Caesar, better known as 'Caesar the No Drama Llama,' is a retired 6-year-old Argentine grand champion show llama that now works as a therapy llama and "llamactivist." One of his best talents is offering emotional-support hugs, which people line up to give him at protests and other places where Caesar shows up." WaPo: Therapy llama ‘Caesar the No Drama Llama' calms tensions at protests.

+ Breakfast macaroni and cheese coming in 2021, says Kraft. (Sure. Why allow your ventricles to sleep in?)