Thursday, August 19th, 2021


A Coffer You Can’t Refuse

Maybe it was Square acquiring Afterpay for $29 billion that enlightened you to the fact that Buy Now Pay Later is a hot business. Or maybe it was the fact that you see BNPL options at the checkout stage of almost every online shopping cart. Well, who exactly is doing the paying and are these tools a good idea for the average consumer? You're asking the wrong guy. I've spent decades giving away my product for free. But here's a pretty good overview of how these services work, their upsides, and their downsides. And reading it won't cost you a penny (at least for now). The Markup: Are Buy Now, Pay Later Retail Loans a Rip-off? "Data suggests that at least in the case of this second category, the companies more often make their money from retailer commissions, not missed payments. A 2020 report by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission found that in Australia, merchant fees made up a lion's share of those providers' fiscal year 2018–2019 revenue."

+ "You don't reach 34,000 stores across the country (with a new location opening roughly every 6 or so hours) by operating at a net loss. You do so by tricking your customers into believing they're getting great, cheap deals on name-brand items, when in fact they're simply paying more for less product." How dollar stores scammed America to become worth more than Coca-Cola.


Recall Me Maybe

"The good news is that for only the second time in the state's history, every voter is getting a ballot mailed to their home. The first time that happened was last November. But everything else about this process is confusing, up to and including that ballot." Slate: Just How Big a Mess the California Recall Is. (I'm old enough to remember when a recall was just the next election.)


Wolf Pak

"Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we've so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? ... And lo. Karzai abruptly emerges from this vortex, at the head of a 'coordinating committee' that will negotiate the Taliban's return to power? Again?" Sarah Chayes, a journalist, an adoptive Kandahari, and a former senior U.S. government official, with a reality check about our efforts in Afghanistan and denial about Pakistan's role in all of this. The Ides of August.

+ "Whatever delusions existed about whether this would happen or how long it might take have been dispatched as efficiently as the Afghan security forces were by the Taliban over a single week. What little gains have been achieved in women's rights, education, and poverty will be systematically eradicated. Any semblance of democracy will be lost. And while there might be 'peace,' it will come only after any remaining forces of opposition are overwhelmed or dead. The Taliban told us this. Or at least they told me." Ian Fritz in The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban.

+ Some members of Afghanistan's all-girls robotics team have escaped to Qatar. A former Afghan women's soccer captain tells players to burn kits, delete photos. And here's the latest on the race against the clock from BBC.


Lasting Impression

"The experience may also prompt people to take all respiratory viruses more seriously, leading to lasting changes in mask wearing and ventilation. Endemic COVID-19 means finding a new, tolerable way to live with this virus. It will feel strange for a while and then it will not. It will be normal." Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic: The Coronavirus Is Here Forever. This Is How We Live With It.

+ In the meantime, let's at least believe it. "Tourists and servers alike dance atop tables and in the aisles at one restaurant on the 'Redneck Riviera,' a beloved stretch of towns along the northern Gulf Coast where beaches, bars and stores are packed. Yet just a few miles away, a hospital is running out of critical care beds, its rooms full of unvaccinated people fighting for their lives."

+ "We're planning to hand out extra lifejackets to people who already have lifejackets, while we're leaving other people to drown." WHO condemns rush by wealthy nations to give Covid vaccine booster.

+ "The barriers can stop big droplets ejected during coughs and sneezes from splattering on others, which is why buffets and salad bars often are equipped with transparent sneeze guards above the food. But Covid-19 spreads largely through unseen aerosol particles." NYT (gift article for ND readers): Those Anti-Covid Plastic Barriers Probably Don't Help and May Make Things Worse.


From Bad to Curse

"There's really no room — or really no time — to address fatigue right now, because there's so much to be done and people need so much. You're talking about people who are still under the rubble." They Can't Afford Haiti Fatigue. So They Rally As Another Disaster Hits.

+ WaPo: A lament for Haiti: ‘It is as if we are cursed.'


Avatar Pit

"Facebook has been using Workrooms internally for meetings for about six months, according to Zuckerberg. 'These kinds of experiences, where you can actually feel present with other people, are I think a much richer way to interact than the types of social apps we've been able to build on phones or computers.'" Inside Facebook's Metaverse for Work. (The one thing I like about this is my avatar never gains weight.)


We Lava Good Iceland Story

"The center of the field resembled carbonized oatmeal. The lava near the path reached out with giant panther paws that seemed to demand petting. I encountered a few people here, crouching and cautiously touching the lava." The always-excellent Heidi Julavits in The New Yorker: Chasing the Lava Flow in Iceland.

+ While we're in the neighborhood. Jelisa Castrodale: I Went to Iceland to Learn What's Up With Their Elves.


Best Ever Curb Episode

"It's disgusting. Your whole enclave — it's disgusting. You're disgusting." Larry David Couldn't Curb His Anger at Alan Dershowitz in Martha's Vineyard Grocery. Good. Shun the enablers. This isn't just a show we're watching. You don't get to perform and then expect to be welcomed back. Harvard should take a cue from Larry and show Dersh the door..


Only Bans

"OnlyFans, which has amassed a base of more than 130 million users largely for adult-oriented subscription fan pages, announced that it will ban sexually explicit content this fall." (I guess it will be called ExFans now...)


Bottom of the News

"Enzo Dalmazzo, 43, and Daniela Dalmazzo, 31, were charged with falsifying a vaccine card, with Daniela facing an additional two counts for submitting fake documents for their two children." Miami Beach Couple Arrested in Hawaii for Using Fake Vaccination Cards. (Forget about the pathetic details of the crime. They risked getting busted to go from one beach to another?)

+ "Federal documents show that nine of the 34 incidents involve a passenger accused of touching or hitting another person on the plane, including crew members. Eight passengers are accused of illegally drinking alcohol they brought on board the plane. Half of the incidents involve flights to or from vacation destinations in Florida."

+ For a year, I was living one month of 2020 while reliving and writing about an earlier month of 2020. For that reason alone, you should immediately order your copy of Please Scream Inside Your Heart. (It's also pretty good :-)