Monday, September 21st, 2020


Famous Last Words

Legend has it that Dylan Thomas's last words at White Horse Tavern were: "I've had eighteen straight whiskies—I think that's the record." Elvis Presley said, "I'm going to the bathroom to read." James Joyce wondered, "Does nobody understand?" Groucho Marx explained,"This is no way to live!" Christopher Hitchens said, "Capitalism ... downfall." From "Et Tu, Brute?" to Steve Jobs' Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow," there have been many famous last words. Ruth Bader Ginsburg placed herself towards the top of the pantheon as she dictated to her granddaughter: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." The reaction to that last wish defines America today, and may define it for years to come. Some cut their mourning short to begin the fight to honor RBG's call. Others surprised no one in an immediate, cynical race to disobey. And Donald Trump, oh Donald Trump, insinuated that she didn't dictate those words at all. "I don't know if she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff or Schumer and Pelosi. I would be more inclined to the second. That came out of the wind, it sounds so beautiful, but that sounds like a Schumer deal or maybe Pelosi or shifty Schiff. That came out of the wind." I can't wait until this presidency is gone with the wind. In the meantime, an already contentious election season just got a whole lot contentiouser. Trump to make court pick by Saturday, Ginsburg services set. Winston Churchill's last words were, "I'm bored with it all." I doubt anyone who dies during 2020 will end on the same note.

+ Majority of Americans, including many Republicans, say wait for election to replace Ginsburg.

+ Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have said we should wait until after the election. As per usual, this is going to be close. All eyes on Romney, Grassley and Gardner as Supreme Court confirmation fight looms over the Senate.

+ If Republicans Confirm New Justice, Scholars Say Democratic Court Packing Is Possible. (Since the Merrick Garland debacle. court packing has been happening...)

+ How a Mark Kelly win in Arizona Senate race could spoil McConnell's plans to replace Ginsburg.

+ And finally, in all my years writing NextDraft, I don't think I ever got more responses than I did following Saturday's RBG special edition. I didn't see that coming: Ruth Hashanah.


Clean and Jerked

"Money laundering is a crime that makes other crimes possible. It can accelerate economic inequality, drain public funds, undermine democracy, and destabilize nations — and the banks play a key role. 'Some of these people in those crisp white shirts in their sharp suits are feeding off the tragedy of people dying all over the world.'" An in depth and disturbing report from Buzzfeed: Fincen Files. "Dirty money pours into the world's most powerful banks. Money from drug cartels, organized crime rings, corrupt leaders. Money that funds terror networks, bloody wars, and human trafficking. All laundered clean."


The Coming Cold War

"The virus is here to stay. At best, it would fade away gradually, but that would happen after, not before, the winter. The sooner we can accept this, the more we can focus on minimizing the losses of the bleak and grisly coming months. Some of our fate is now inevitable, but much is not. There are still basic things we can do to survive." As America crosses the 200,000 death threshold, The Atlantic's James Hamblin explains, How We Survive the Winter: The coming months of the pandemic could be catastrophic. The U.S. still has ways to prepare. (Before you get excited about this to-do list, you should know that Hamblin's first item is: Accept Reality.)

+ "The CDC has reversed its stance on whether the coronavirus is airborne, days after it warned that the virus spreads most commonly through the air and is more contagious than the agency had previously suggested. That advice, published Friday, was a 'draft version' posted to the agency's website in error, according to a note published on Monday morning. 'CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2,' the note says. 'Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.'" In February, Trump told Bob Woodward that the virus was spread through the air. Seven months and 200,000 deaths later, the administration can't properly update its site to say that. It's criminal.


Muellerr on the Side of Caution

"Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a "lawless" president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is 'like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.' But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Andrew Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel's Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability." (This is so much the story of the Trump era. Trump blew up every norm and those tasked with holding him accountable played by the same old rules ... and still do.) The Atlantic's George Packer: The Inside Story of the Mueller Probe's Mistakes.


Lindelof to Keep From Crying

I first sought out Schitt's Creek because I heard Chris Elliot was in it, and back then, since it was on something called Pop TV, it wasn't easy to find. I definitely didn't have any idea it would go on to set a comedy show Emmy record. I did however know that my friend, the most excellent Damon Lindelof would bring home top writing and show honors for his creatively courageous and remarkably timely work on Watchmen. And even though I don't think he's ever forwarded NextDraft to Regina King, I still congratulate him whole-heartedly. The Emmys were weird, like everything in 2020. But the shows honored, from Watchmen to Succession to Euphoria are some of the best TV I've seen in a while. Here's a list of all the winners. Maybe it's a good thing there were no audience members in the theater, because if there had been, the standing ovation for Tyler Perry's Quilt Speech could still be going on...


Tik Tok Crock

"Now, as the dust settles on the weeks of drama over the social media app, investors and others are asking what it was all for. The answer? A cloud computing contract for the Silicon Valley business software company Oracle, a merchandising deal for Walmart and a claim of victory for President Trump." NYT: ‘There's No There There': What the TikTok Deal Achieved. Somehow giving Larry Ellison a hosting deal will save us from China....


The Manhattan Projectile

"The move is an explicitly political gambit, part of the Trump administration's 'law and order' re-election push. In seeking to withdraw federal funding from the three cities, the DoJ is likely to be stymied in the courts." DoJ labels New York, Portland and Seattle anarchist jurisdictions. This might be the most egregious example of projection since Melania made a push to stop online bullying.


Thunder Abode

"It is, as always, mildly jarring to be standing next to him, as though one of the heads from Mount Rushmore peeled itself off the cliff to hang out. When you've hardly spoken with anyone else face-to-face for months, it's even odder. I grew up around here, too, so as we head to a covered porch, there's some local small talk — we mourn a mutually beloved Carvel store, mentioned in his book, that's morphed into a Dunkin' Donuts. We settle into wicker chairs, six feet apart, across a table of white stone that overlooks a tree-lined field, where leaves are swaying in what's left of the morning's wind. For a man who's born to run but more or less stuck in place, there are worse spots to be." I mean, the rest of this edition was just to get us all tuned up for this. Rolling Stone: Ghosts, Guitars, and the E Street Shuffle: How Bruce Springsteen confronted death, saw Clarence in his dreams, and knocked out a raw and rocking new album with the world's greatest bar band.


Vine Diesel

"'My name is Seth,' he said. 'I'm a neighbor, and I see you walking your big brown dog, and sometimes a cat is with you.' All true. He had established his bona fides. 'My mother just died, and she loved cooking green tomatoes.' He nodded toward my small tomato garden. 'Could I take a tomato, in her honor?'" Gene Weingarten in WaPo: A neighbor asked for a tomato. This is where the story gets weird. (Come for the tomatoes, stay for the kicker...)


Bottom of the News

Ladies and Gentlemen and readers of all ages, I'm pleased to introduce the NextDraft Get out the Vote T-Shirt. The shirt doesn't pick sides. It's just about participating in our great democracy. One shouldn't read anything into the Ray Bans. OK, get your shirt and do me a favor and spread the word. Let There Be Light.

+ A fun list of industry secrets from people who work in the fields mentioned.

+ Who Knew You Could Play Music with a Boxing Speed Bag?! (Seems like you could then do something pretty similar with someone's face...)