Thursday, July 28th, 2022


Shock Therapy

Scheduling Note: Unless my addiction gets the better of me, NextDraft will be taking a Summer break from August 1-12.

Call it a surprising turn of events. An unexpected plot twist. A bolt from the blue. A bombshell. A curveball. A shocker. A lightning strike. A deus ex machina. Or we can go with Peripeteia: a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortune, whether for good or ill, that emerges naturally from the character's circumstances. In this case, the sudden reversal is for good and the protagonist is Earth. Up until a few hours ago, the notion of Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer coming to a budget deal that addressed climate change seemed about as likely as the two lead characters landing their car safely at the end of Thelma and Louise. We're talking about something way more surprising than a 170 carat pink diamond being discovered in Angola and much more unexpected than a university finding plausible evidence for the existence of the Lochness Monster. And yet, as Politico summarizes in its headline, ‘Holy s--t': Surprise Senate deal sets stage for record climate change package.

+ AP: "What started as a $4 trillion effort during President Joe Biden's first months in office to rebuild America's public infrastructure and family support systems has ended up a much slimmer, but not unsubstantial, compromise package of inflation-fighting health care, climate change and deficit reduction strategies that appears headed toward quick votes in Congress." What's in, and out, of Democrats' inflation-fighting package.

+ Manchin indicated that his change of course is due to the positive impact the bill would have on inflation. The NYT suggests it may also be connected to a deal "that could ease the way for a project in which Mr. Manchin has taken a personal interest, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport Appalachian shale gas from West Virginia to Virginia." But motivations aside, those who cover the climate are describing this bill as a historic game changer. Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic reflects the mood. "Every few years, American politics astonishes you. Yesterday was one of those days." If passed, the energy provisions of the senators' new bill would represent the most significant climate action in a generation. Of course, it's just a deal for now, not a law, and Congress has pulled this football away from us more often than Lucy and Charlie Brown. So, for now, it's an unexpected plot twist, but still a cliffhanger.


Recession Proof?

"The U.S. economy shrank in the last three months by 0.9%. This is the second consecutive quarter where the economy has contracted." NPR: Is it in a recession?

+ WaPo (Gift Article): What causes a recession? "A recession is caused when a chain of events, like a line of dominoes, picks up momentum and does not stop until the economy shrinks. Each event is connected to something that happened before and something that will happen in the future. If the price of a hamburger goes up, you might stop buying hamburgers. This would impact a restaurant, and that would impact a server. There are many interconnected chains like this throughout the economy."

+ "The U.S. economy is shaped by the decisions of several hundred million people, and the definition of a recession is determined by exactly eight of them." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic: Is This a Recession? Wrong Question. (Unfortunately, inflation has made the right question too expensive to obtain.)


Industrial Light and Magic

Want good press? Need articles that influence decision makers? Well, you can always secretly run a news site. The Miami Herald on how How Florida Power & Light secretly took over a Florida news site and used it to bash critics. "While portraying itself as a feisty independent outlet, the Capitolist — which aims its content directly at Tallahassee decision makers — was bankrolled and controlled by executives of the power company through a small group of trusted intermediaries from an Alabama consulting firm."


Sound Check

"Mark Ronson was renovating his West Village townhouse last summer when an urgent question arose: What type of audio speakers should he — a Grammy and Oscar-winning songwriter and record producer — procure for his living room? His interior designer, Michael Bargo, suggested a bespoke line of modular sound systems that he had never heard of" that were made by a guy named Devon Turnbull who maintains "a niche audiophile brand that caters to designers and artists." Ronson wasn't sold. "I'm not a particularly snarky person or anything, but I remember thinking, 'What does this guy know about sound?,'" Then Ronson listened to the speakers. "I was fully blown away. I genuinely had a spiritual experience listening to music that day." NYT (Gift Article): His Audio Speakers Are Coveted by Supreme, Mark Ronson and Prada. They are also coveted by Dave Pell. So if someone out there has a hookup, I'm all ears.


Extra, Extra

Crank Call: Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held a two hour conversation on Thursday. The call was partly focused on Taiwan and Nancy Pelosi's planned trip there. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs summed up the call thusly: "Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this." (Compared to dealing with Congress, Biden probably enjoyed the relief of playing with fire for a couple hours.)

+ Swap Meeting of Minds? "U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Washington had offered Russia a deal that would bring home Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan. A person familiar with the matter said the U.S. government proposed trading convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Whelan and Griner." (The deal was offered a couple weeks ago. Letting the press in on it is likely about getting Russia to respond.)

+ I Know a Guy Who Knows a Guise: "Brooks' brother had been a resident of the nursing home. But she had no control over his money or authority to make decisions for him. She wondered how she could be on the hook for his nearly $8,000 bill." Nursing homes are suing friends and family to collect on patients' bills.

+ Cloud Atlas: "I listen to the ambient din of fans roaring and cannot discern the sound of overheating he is describing. My untrained ear cannot differentiate that noise from the rest of the mechanical thrumming around me. But Tom can. Conditioned by countless hours in these mechanical halls, he hears the individual parts in a symphony of beeps, tones and pulses coming from air conditioners, power distribution units, servers, smoke detectors, fire prevention systems, ungrounded cables, and heat. In this world of computational chill, heat is nuisance, an invisible enemy and index of harm." Meet the people of the cloud. "There is nothing soft and fluffy about the caretaking work that enables our digital lives." (Which is lucky, otherwise these people would be known as fluffers...)

+ Bronze Medal: "Scientists at the University of Cambridge said the HSV-1 strain of the herpes virus arose during vast migrations of people from Eurasia to Europe about 5,000 years ago." Cold sores traced back to kissing in Bronze Age. (Don't blame me. I didn't score once in the Bronze Age.)


Bottom of the News

"Norway's electric dream has been credited to a series of tax breaks and other financial carrots that mean brands like Tesla can compete on price with combustion engines. But these incentives—and their success—have created a unique predicament: Norway is running out of dirty cars to tax."

+ A California burglar forgot his keys inside crime scene. (This one is from my birthplace, San Rafael, California. We also invented 420 which may or may not be related to this story.)