Friday, September 25th, 2020


An Outside Joke

It's the weekend, and Monday is Yom Kippur. So delivery will be on an as needed basis.

I've said many times that American politics are not divided into two bubbles where people hold different sets of opinions about a shared reality. America is divided between those who live in reality, and those who live in a world in which they are bombarded with an endless stream of falsehoods, doctored videos, and fake news. People on both sides of the divide are victims of this relentless effort to trick Americans, because both sides suffer the ramifications when people base their votes on these lies. And sometimes the sickest of the lies can pass through the porous membrane of the reality bubble. A couple weeks ago during dinner, my 12 year old daughter said she wished someone other than Joe Biden was facing Donald Trump. When I asked why, she explained, "Well, Biden is just sort of a pedophile." The Nile of vile bile released by some sick monster in a campaign war room had oozed, by way of my daughter's Tik Tok stream, all the way to my dinner table. Thomas Jefferson is famous for the quote: "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." Only, Jefferson never actually said that. He did once write in a letter that "wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government." One thing we know for sure: A disinformed population is a problem for everyone other than those doing the disinforming. But because the disinformation campaign has worked beyond its authors' wildest dreams, and there's no reason to think it will slow down after the upcoming election. For a look at how it works, check out this CNN piece from Donie O'Sullivan. Trump's use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren't always in on the joke.


Naked Ambition

"For the state's primary election, local election officials were allowed to accept ballots that were returned without the inner envelope — commonly referred to as "naked ballots" — to accommodate the surge of voters in Pennsylvania who cast absentee ballots for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic. But under last week's court ruling, ballots sent back to election officials without the inner envelope will be rejected, with no opportunity for voters to rectify the problem to make sure their vote is counted." WaPo: Philadelphia election official warns ‘naked ballots' may invalidate up to 100,000 votes.

+ "In the space of a single sentence uttered Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray unwound months of wild conspiracy theories pushed by President Donald Trump and his allies about mail-in ballots in the 2020 election." Then Mark Meadows got the conspiracy theories fired back up.

+ Vice: "According to the leaked speech, the USPS says it will undo nearly all of Louis DeJoy's most controversial policies and make election mail its 'number one priority.'" (Of course, it was never just about slowing mail, it was about sowing doubt.)

+ Who's worried that Trump will abuse the system to stay in office? The hysterical libs! Oh, and the Pentagon.


Weekend Whats

What to Read: "Except for at a few concerts that have been held on the property, only about two hundred visitors have seen the Hill, in Magee's estimation. Workers have to prepare the site before it is shown, which can take a couple days, and no more than a handful of guests can view it at a time. 'For people who are ready and receptive to James Magee, if you go to the Hill with him, you will forever divide your life into two parts: before the Hill and after,' Richard Brettell said shortly before his death in July. Brettell, an art scholar and former director of the Dallas Museum of Art, wrote extensively about the Hill, which he first saw in 1988. 'It's transformative,' he said, 'unlike anything else.'" Texas Monthly: James Magee Has Been Working on His Masterpiece for Decades, but Completion Isn't the Point.

+ What to Watch: In the early 1900s, more than 9,000 fire lookouts spanned the United States. Today, only sixty remained staffed. Outside takes you to one of them to visit with Jim Henterly, a naturalist, illustrator, and fire lookout. His job will look pretty great to anyone who's spent the last six months unable to escape their family.
Ode to Desolation.


Plot Developments

"Now — with health authorities saying it may not be until at least the end of 2021 before there's a degree of post-Covid normalcy in our lives — look forward. Imagine the next 15 months and what life will be like." Stat News talked to the experts to plot the Road Ahead: Charting the coronavirus pandemic over the next 12 months — and beyond.

+ Politico: Here's how the pandemic finally ends. (Sadly, it doesn't just disappear...)


The Chart of the Deal

"His chart showed that by April, the bottom quarter of wage earners, those making less than $27,000 a year, had lost almost 11 million jobs, more than three times the number lost by the top quarter, which earn more than $60,000 annually. By late June the gap had widened further, even though many businesses had reopened. In fact, the segment of Americans who are paid best had recovered almost all the jobs lost since the start of the pandemic. 'The recession has essentially ended for high-income individuals,' Chetty told Biden and Harris. Meanwhile, the bottom half of American workers represented almost 80% of the jobs still missing." Before the pandemic, the economic divide was the one story that underpinned all others. And that divide is getting worse. Bloomberg: Harvard's Chetty Finds Economic Carnage in Wealthiest ZIP Codes.

+ Pew: Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues To Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest.


Twist and Shout

"Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through the top of a target's vehicle. If the high-velocity projectile does not kill the target, the missile's other feature almost certainly does: six long blades tucked inside, which deploy seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path." NYT: U.S. Commandos Use Secretive Missiles to Kill Qaeda Leaders in Syria. (Believe it or not, these were created to minimize damage.)


Crimeless Scene?

The Breonna Taylor "case reveals an unresolved conflict in the law. A police tactic meant to keep officers safer — raiding homes late at night, giving occupants little or no warning — can conflict with 'castle doctrine' laws meant to keep homeowners safe, by giving them leeway to use deady force against intruders." A woman killed. A cop shot. And no one legally responsible.


Pump and Circumstance

"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's body lay in state at the US Capitol. She became the first woman and Jewish person in history to do so there." Here's the latest as people from Joe Biden to Ginsburg's personal trainer (who did push-ups at the scene) paid their respects.


The Ring is Coming From Inside the House

"Ring latest home security camera is taking flight — literally. The new Always Home Cam is an autonomous drone that can fly around inside your home to give you a perspective of any room you want when you're not home." (Bezos should just get it over with and make a suppository.)


Feel Good Friday

"Magawa's work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people." Rat That Sniffs Out Land Mines Receives Award for Bravery.

+ Helsinki airport trials sniffer dogs as Covid-19 detectors. (Well, at least they'll know if your crotch has covid...)

+ "In true Shakespearean style, their romantic story began on their respective balconies this year while Italians were forced to sequester in their homes because of the pandemic. It was in Verona." Italian couple ‘Romeo and Juliet' met from their balconies during lockdown. Now they're engaged. "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" ... "Hit me up on my DM and I'll explain the whole thing..." (Let's pause here to make sure everyone knows "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" is Juliet asking why her prospective boyfriend is named Romeo, meaning their love will be frowned upon, and also to listen to Dire Straits Romeo and Juliet, because it has one of the great rock lines ever. "You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin, yeah. Now you just say 'oh, Romeo, yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him.'" Close readers will notice that many of my editions of NextDraft are written entirely in iambic pentameter...)

+ Doobie Brothers' lawyer sends humorous copyright-infringement letter to Bill Murray.

+ To combat hunger, neighbors are stocking community fridges on Boston's streets.

+ A new emoji perfectly captures 2020.

+ Spanish triathlete lets rival cross the line first after making mistake at the finish.

+ Zookeepers bottle-feed koala, kangaroo, and wallaby joeys as animal park welcomes adorable newborns.