Friday, August 21st, 2020


We Have Lift Off

For months, Donald Trump has been attempting to position his opponent as Sleepy Joe Biden hiding in the basement. On Thursday night, that opponent was shot out of the basement on a rocket ship and Sleepy Joe just woke the nation. I've never seen a candidate draw a more clear distinction between himself and an adversary; and all he really had to do was bring us one step back towards human decency. Perhaps the clearest contrast came when Biden actually took the time to mourn those lost to the pandemic. "On this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes. But I've learned two things. First, your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart. They will always be with you. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose." Biden positioned the race as a battle between the light and the darkness. (Choose the light. And for eff's sake, make it an LED light.) Here's the best speech of Joe Biden's life. How can I be sure the speech was so good? My 11 year-old daughter reviewed it: "I like Biden. He's cool. He's chill. He seems like someone who would be dad's friend." That's the nicest thing she's said about either one of us.


Nothing Owed Dejoy

"As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's election mail securely and on time. This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day." So said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in an appearance before the Senate. And really, who are we to doubt it?

+ WaPo: 5 takeaways from the Postal Service hearing.

+ LA Times: ‘Like Armageddon': Rotting food, dead animals and chaos at postal facilities amid cutbacks.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: Palm Springs is a fun take on the Groundhog Day story. Def a nice summer movie featuring Andy Samberg and the multitalented Cristin Milioti. Watch it on Hulu.

+ What to Doc: "In 1985, American DEA agent Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by Mexico's most notorious drug lords. Thirty-five years later, three former cartel insiders share unprecedented details. This is the story of Camarena, the drug cartel he infiltrated, and the narc who risked everything to discover the truth." The Last Narc is an amazing piece of journalism and a reminder that some of the stories we think we know about today will take decades to fully understand.

+ What to Note: Here are a few note taking and writing tools worth checking out. First, I love Tot, a simple menubar blank page for jotting down quick notes. There's a phone app too. For more serious note taking needs, my favorite app is Bear. For longer writing projects, Ulysses is the most elegant all around solution. And for shared, living docs, check out Coda.


Desert Storm

"As migrants have sought out increasingly remote routes through the desert, more of them have died. This is a fact not seriously disputed by anyone familiar with the problem, including the Border Patrol. But if we are to look at these deaths as the Pima County pathologists do, as a kind of slow-motion epidemic, we must label the desert a proximate, not an ultimate, cause. There are various ultimate causes, but perhaps the plainest, certainly the most traceable, is federal policy. Confronted with images of holding pens and parentless children, it would be easy to assume the policy began with President Trump, the latest face of a revived — though hardly new — American hostility toward migrants. In fact, it has been in place through four presidential administrations." NYT Mag: How U.S. Policy Turned the Sonoran Desert Into a Graveyard for Migrants.

+ Trump Cabinet officials voted in 2018 White House meeting to separate migrant children.


It’s Here

"Movies present it as a moment when the world's weather suddenly turns apocalyptic: winds howl, sea levels surge, capital cities are decimated. Climate messaging can bolster this notion, implying that we have a certain number of years to save the day before reaching a cataclysmic point of no return. Living in expectation of a definitive global break can blind us to the fact that gradually, insidiously, the climate crisis has already arrived." (No joke. I can smell it right now.) The climate crisis has already arrived. Just look to California's abnormal wildfires.

+ The Guardian with the latest: California fires: massive blazes spread as state strapped for resources.


Laundering List

"'Donald Trump has gravely damaged America's role as a world leader,' the first point in the letter says. Other items include declarations that Trump is 'unfit to lead during a national crisis ... solicited foreign influence ... aligned himself with dictators ... disparaged our armed forces, intelligence agencies, and diplomats ... sundermined the rule of law ... dishonored the office of the presidency ... divided our nation ... attacked and vilified immigrants ... imperiled America's security." More than 70 Republican former national security officials come out in support of Biden. Enablers, what say you?


Daily Dread

"These women were known as the 'dailies' – unemployed cutters and machinists who went from factory to factory looking for a few hours of casual work. Everyone knew what the women had to do to get picked from the crowd. Many would endure repeated harassment and sexual assault to secure a daily wage of just over £6 a day." The Guardian: Fashion's dirty secret: how sexual assault took hold in jeans factories. (And like everything else in the lives of the vulnerable, the pandemic made things worse.)


Hat Tricky Dick

"It has been asked, repeatedly, whether the grifts of Donald Trump and the people around him would ever catch up with them. On Thursday, they caught up to Bannon." The New Yorker: The Stunning Predictability of Steve Bannon's "We Build the Wall" Scam.

+ "If irony is dead, it just got resurrected with the fraud arrest—while aboard a $28 million super-yacht—of self-proclaimed Leninist-populist and anti-elitist Steve Bannon." (I don't want to be an elitist's elitist, but by today's superyacht standards, I'm pretty sure $28 million gets you a dinghy.)

+ WaPo: Each of the three people who led Trump's 2016 campaign has now faced criminal charges. (That's one way to create jobs...)


Hampton Comes Alive

"Nightmare houseguests are a Hamptons staple and complaining about them behind their backs is basically a sport. But this summer, many are yearning for the old days, when a guest leaving a wet towel on the floor or eating the last serving of lobster salad was as bad as it got. Because while much of the New York City lockdown has now been lifted, a recent unscientific survey of New York–area hosts with pandemic-squatting friends suggested that a fair amount of houseguests are continuing to outstay their welcomes." Vanity Fair: From the Hamptons to the Shore, a Plague of Pandemic Houseguests Who Won't Leave. (This is how I describe my kids these days...)


Feel Good Friday

"The top emotion people struggle with (more than a quarter in my study) is fear, followed by sadness and shame. Brian Wecht, a Harvard- and MIT-trained theoretical physicist from Pennsylvania who stepped down from his tenured professorship to devote himself to his comedy rock band, Ninja Sex Party, feared humiliation. 'If I take the leap and it fails,' he thought, 'I may be throwing away my entire future for this weird YouTube career.' Finally, he decided, 'I'd rather live with fear and failure than safety and regret.' The band's next album reached the 'Billboard' Top 20." My friend Bruce Feiler on my friend Brian Wecht (and others). Learning to Conquer Life's Crises.

+ My friend the excellent Jessi Hempel talks to my friend the amazing Lindsay Harrison. In the Room Where It Happens with Lindsay Harrison. (What we've learned so far is that these people have no taste in friends.)

+ "Hi, my name is Brayden Harrington, and I'm 13 years old, and without Joe Biden I wouldn't be talking to you today. About a few months ago, I met him in New Hampshire. He told me that we were members of the same club." Brayden Harrington, a boy with a stutter, gave a gripping convention speech. (On the other hand...)

+ An Iowa restaurant owner is giving out 400 free BBQ meals every day to storm victims.

+ West Side Teens Transform Liquor Store Into Fresh Food Market.

+ USA's first male 'murder hornet' captured in Washington state. They should throw the book at him. Or even just drop the book on him.

+ "A local corn-loving crew was quickly dispatched to the scene of the crime and efforts to save the patient began." Hope lives: 57th Street corn transplanted. (I love a corny ending.)