Friday, August 20th, 2021


Mike Drop

This man's career as a host lasted only one 1/6th of Scaramucci. Who is Mike Richards? The show that requires its contestants to phrase their answers as questions has left its audience wondering What is WTF? Mike Richards started taping his first shows on August 19 and was out by the next day due to the building controversy over his nearly decade-ago remarks about women and Jews (double Jeopardy?). Maybe it's karma for the game show since they took viewers through a series of host auditions and then ignored their feedback. Maybe it was the impossible task of replacing Alex Trebek (they were never gonna find someone as nice as a Canadian). Maybe it's just that history is calling for Lavar Burton to become host. Whatever it is, Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!' Host Amid Cascade of Scandals. I'm leading with this partly because it's been a long week of much more serious and urgent news. And partly because it points to a broader trend of people's past comments coming back to haunt them. How long will this trend continue? I don't know, but at least I phrased my question as a question.

+ Dictionary dot com threw some shade.


Illin’ in Peoria

"Some houses were so bad that even the squatters had quit on them, and now only raccoons and rodents sought them out for shelter. And then, for reasons that no one in Peoria could fathom, people from all over America began snapping them up. By early summer, seven houses on this block ... had sold to buyers from Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Island, Tacoma, Wash., and other far-off places." Greg Jaffe in WaPo (gift article for ND readers) on how the quest for a place to call one's own led a whole lot of people West Lincoln Avenue in Peoria, Illinois (via the information superhighway). The strange summer land rush in Peoria's dying south end.


Weekend Whats

What to Pod: "Toddlers actually get it pretty right. Where it gets complicated is in the grown-up world, where businesses and governments have figured out ways to turn each of those simple stories—mine, possession—upside down, so they can get you to do what they want without you even realizing it." The excellent Dahlia Lithwick with a really interesting chat with Michael Heller, author of Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives. And it starts in the most contentious place of all. The Fierce Legal Battle at the Heart of the Fight Over Reclining Airline Seats.

+ What to Brush Up On: It seems like a good time to gain some expertise on what the hell has been happening in Afghanistan. For that, we'll turn to Steve Coll's audiobook, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you prefer it, the paperback is here.

+ What to Playlist: "One artist per congressional district in the USA. (Based off the 2020 Congressional map. The curator reserves the right to redistrict in instances of heinous gerrymandering.)" Very cool idea. A guy named Andrew Becker put together a Spotify playlist based on America's 435 districts. House Party (of Representatives)

+ What to Book: My book, damnit. The best-seller list placement isn't going to happen by itself. If you've already ordered a copy, please take a couple seconds to use my new one-click share tool to spread the word. I appreciate need all the support.


Leaving So Soon?

AP: Biden pledges to Americans in Kabul: ‘We will get you home.' "Biden also said Friday the United States is committed to evacuating all Afghans who assisted the war effort — a potentially vast expansion of the administration's commitments on the airlift so far, given the tens of thousands of Afghan translators and others, and their close family members, seeking evacuation." The US is sending an additional thousand troops. The big question, one it's really hard to message one's way around, is why did we pull troops out before the evacuation and then have to send them back?

+ "The key element that undermined Afghan army morale was the US beginning negotiations with the Taliban behind the back of the elected Afghan government. This clear act of bad faith was not lost on the soldiery, who realised the likelihood of a future Taliban takeover." Interesting analysis: Why Did the Afghan Army Evaporate?

+ Here's the latest from the BBC.


Children of the Scorn

"Two weeks ago, only two or three children a day would come into Dr. Nick Hysmith's hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, with Covid-19, usually ones who were admitted for other reasons, like broken bones. This week, he is seeing as many as 28 children under 18 a day, some of them landing in the intensive care unit." Child Covid-19 hospitalizations soar.

+ Ron Brownstein on why the red state/blue city conflict is peaking over masks. (It's all a sign of how craven some our leaders have become. They're willing to put our kids at risk to throw a little more raw meat to their misled followers.)

+ On a positive note, Delta is having some success changing minds. As Covid-19 hospitalizations increase, a greater number of Americans are deciding to get vaccinated.


Fatigues Fatigue

"Afghanistan provides a useful reminder that while we and our European allies might be tired of "forever wars," the Taliban are not tired of wars at all. The Pakistanis who helped them are not tired of wars, either. Nor are the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian regimes that hope to benefit from the change of power in Afghanistan; nor are al-Qaeda and the other groups who may make Afghanistan their home again in future." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: Liberal Democracy Is Worth a Fight.


Operating in Bad Faith

"The reports by the blog, The Pillar, have unnerved the leadership of the American Catholic Church and have introduced a potentially powerful new weapon into the culture war between supporters of Pope Francis and his conservative critics: cellphone data, which many users assume to be unavailable to the general public." NYT: Catholic Officials on Edge After Reports of Priests Using Grindr.


Card Sharks

"Members of the collectors community like Donahue were left reeling this week after news that Major League Baseball is set to end its 70 year trading card partnership with Topps." Fanatics, the extremely dominant player in sports merch, is set to get into the cards biz. And there goes the Topps SPAC deal.


The Musk-ateers

"Musk, who has spoken repeatedly about his fears of runaway artificial intelligence, said the Tesla Bot is 'intended to be friendly,' but that the company is designing the machine at a 'mechanical level' so that 'you can run away from it, and most likely overpower it.' It will be five feet, eight inches tall, weigh 125 pounds, and have a screen for a face." Elon Musk says Tesla is working on humanoid robots.


Feel Good Friday

A ‘beautiful' friendship: Two families connected by Crown Heights tragedy maintain special bond 30 years later. (I was teaching high school in Crown Heights back then. 30 years. Couldn't be...)

+ "Maria Magdalena Andrejczyk announced on Facebook last week that she would sell her medal and put the proceeds toward an operation for 8-month-old Miloszek Malysa. According to a fundraiser page, the boy is under home hospice care and requires an urgent operation in the United States." An Olympian Sold Her Silver Medal To Fund A Boy's Surgery. The Buyer Let Her Keep It.

+ "Internet meme artist Quentin Quarantino's GoFundMe campaign raised $550,000 in just two hours. Now, after only a day, the total has rocketed toward $6 million and is still climbing."

+ Afghan officer who fought with US forces rescued from Kabul.

+ 10 girls on Afghanistan's robotics team rescued.

+ ‘Green steel': Swedish company ships first batch made without using coal.

+ "Sutton said it was hard work, but also fun checking out frogs and lizards along the way and also eating Skittles sprinkled onto peanut butter tortillas when he needed a boost."
Skittles Help 5-Year-Old Virginia Boy Conquer Appalachian Trail.

+ A Cat Led A Rescue Team To An 83-Year-Old Woman Who Had Fallen Down A Ravine. (This is feel good for now, but the cat's gotta have an angle.)