Tuesday, November 8th, 2022


Pants is Overrated

Vote. Get your coveted sticker. Go home. And don't stress. Don't spend every waking moment refreshing FiveThirtyEight, getting intravenous hits from the NYT needle, or watching the cable news coverage that has helped turn politics into a sporting event. Ignore John King and his big board and don't look as Steve Kornacki does his best impression of a junior high geography teacher who visited Miami in the 80s and fell in with the wrong crowd.

We're not going to know many of the results for days, maybe even weeks. That's one reason I'm pacing myself and, for tonight at least, I'm placing my thoughts elsewhere. I obsess over news every day and I wrote a book that covered my parents warnings about America's slide away from democracy, so I may be a strange messenger to deliver this suggestion, but here goes anyway: Don't obsess over politics. Don't let it overwhelm your everyday experiences, moods, and interactions. That's not the role of politics in a representative democracy—and we should enjoy that fact for as long as we still have one. Like our relentless mutual hate, our nonstop political obsessions are by design, manufactured by others, and no good for us.

The other night I was watching Lyle Lovett performing with his big band on Austin City Limits. During a post show interview, he explained what inspires his songs. "I think life is inspiring. Gosh, there's interesting things to see and something to learn everywhere you look. People are fascinating. People that you meet in your everyday life can inspire you, can make you want to write a song. Really, all you have to do is look around and pay attention." It occurred to me that I rarely do that. I obsess over national politics and global news at the expense of all the good that's happening right in front of my face. If Lyle Lovett didn't practice this philosophy, he'd never have come up with a contrarian, yet accurate, take like this: "Pants is Overrated." Nate Silver could crunch polling data from now until the the end of time and he wouldn't come up with a comparable insight. Like most of my writing, maybe this is as much of an internal monologue as it is a missive that you need, but today, after I vote, I'm gonna tone down the worry, the alienation (I don't even find Chris Evans sexy), the disappointment, and the rage, and see if, absent all those emotions, I can find something to write a song about.

If you can't look away, here are a few reads to prepare you for all the political feels.

+ "The consequence is a politics in which neither party can sustain a durable advantage over the other, and political direction for a country of 330 million people is decided by a tiny sliver of voters in about half a dozen states—maybe a few hundred thousand people in all." Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic: Why Politics Has Become So Stressful. And Anne Lowrey in The Atlantic: Why Is America Always Divided 50–50? "Every election is close. Every election feels consequential, because it is. And far-reaching policy outcomes are over and over again determined by just a few thousand votes in a handful of states." Polarization is a powerful drug. In Slate, Jim Newell explains how to stress out appropriately. With an electorate so evenly split, it seems inevitable that—despite all the fighting, lies, attacks, and decorum vacuums— this election is going to come down to one big issue: Inflation. Maslow's hierarchy beats political messaging every time. And the NYT's Damien Cave with a reminder that you're not the only one stressing. The World's Democracies Ask: Why Can't America Fix Itself? "For most of the world, the U.S. midterms are little more than a blip — but they are another data point on what some see as a trend line of trouble. Especially in countries that have found ways to strengthen their democratic processes, interviews with scholars, officials and voters revealed alarm that the United States seemed to be doing the opposite." (I didn't say not to worry. I just said try not to obsess.) And let's end on a positive note that all Americans can be happy about. After the polls close, you're not going to get any more of those insanely irritating unsolicited texts from politicians you've never heard of running in places you've never been. Those will end until the 2024 election starts. Which is not until tomorrow.


Helvetic Tac Toe

"Switzerland, one of the world's richest nations, has an ambitious climate goal: It promises to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. But the Swiss don't intend to reduce emissions by that much within their own borders. Instead, the European country is dipping into its sizable coffers to pay poorer nations, like Ghana or Dominica, to reduce emissions there — and give Switzerland credit for it." NYT (Gift Article): Switzerland Is Paying Poorer Nations to Cut Emissions on Its Behalf.

+ "Pakistan cooked under a deadly heat wave that climate change made 30 times more likely, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Now it is reeling from the aftermath of the worst floods in living memory. The South Asian country is responsible for less than 1% of the world's planet-warming emissions, but it is paying a heavy price. And there are many other countries like it around the world. Loss and damage will be center stage at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this year, as low-emitting countries inundated with floods or watching their islands sink into the ocean are demanding that developed, high-emissions countries pay up for this damage." This has quickly become the key issue at COP27 – and the most difficult to resolve.


The Handwriting is On the Wall

"In June, a Chinese student in California mentioned a taboo topic on WeChat: the government's bloody 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters. Hours later, his account was banned from WeChat, cutting him off from family and friends back home. To regain access to his account, Eric, who spoke to Rest of World under a pseudonym so he could discuss sensitive issues freely, was forced to write a heartfelt apology to Tencent, the messaging app's parent company." "Please give me a chance": The Tencent app is so essential to life in China that banned users are handwriting apologies to get their accounts back. (Don't let Elon read this...)


Tater Tottis

Sure, America might go the way of Rome. But Rome is still pretty interesting. NYT (Gift Article): A Messy Marital Split Tarnishes a Roman Soccer Legend. "Once upon a time, Francesco Totti, the crowned prince of Italian soccer, celebrated a goal by ripping off his jersey and revealing a T-shirt reading, 'You're the One,' a proclamation of eternal love for Ilary Blasi, a showgirl who stole his heart. The two got married on live television, had three children and moved into a villa befitting Rome's born-and-bred royal family. Now, 20 years later, he says Ms. Blasi's the one who stole his Rolex watches. In response to her filching his timepieces, said to be valued at more than 1 million euros, Mr. Totti, 46, admits he raided his wife's Jimmy Choo, Amina Muaddi, Le Silla, Casadei and Gucci shoe collection. He also hid her purses by Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Chanel, which is the name of one of their daughters."


Extra, Extra

Hammer and Sicko: In her first interview since her husband was attacked, Nancy Pelosi issued what should be a universal message: "I'm sad because of my husband, but I'm also sad for our country. I just want people to vote and we will respect the outcome of the election, and I would hope that the other side would do that as well." Pelosi says attack on husband weighs on her future plans. And in case you have any notions that we've hit bottom: Trump calls Pelosi 'an animal'. Or in case you think it's all just words: "The rally on Monday wasn't the first time Trump imagined journalists being raped in prison. He laid out the same fantasy at a rally in Texas last month, saying the reporter would give up the identity of the leaker as soon as they realize they are 'going to be the bride of another prisoner very shortly.' The audience burst out in laughter, just as they did Monday night in Ohio. It isn't just a laugh line." (But the fact that it is a laugh line says a lot.)

+ Northern Exposure: "Canadian intelligence officials have warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which includes funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates." (Sorry if this screws up your post-election plan b.)

+ Alt Lake City: "The village will provide permanent housing to people who are chronically unsheltered, which means they've spent a cumulative year or more on the streets within the last three years. The Other Side Village is specifically targeting those who struggle with mental illness or drug addiction, since they're the ones who have the hardest time finding and maintaining housing." A village for Salt Lakers experiencing homelessness is designed for self-sufficiency.

+ Mom and Pop: "Living alone has its advantages. 'I mean, the morning I got my first No. 1, I woke up and I told my mom that I got my first No. 1 ... And she was, like, ‘That's awesome.' And then she was, like, ‘You have a bunch of dishes to do from last night.'" He's produced hits by Lizzo, Bieber, and Lil Nas X. And, Blake Slatkin Moved Out of His Mom's House.


Bottom of the News

This post issued by the National Park Service seems right. "As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking."

+ "A pair of dogs gifted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 are now mired in a South Korean political row, with the country's former president blaming his conservative successor for a lack of financial support as he gave the animals up."

+ Examining the edits that change everything about Love is Blind.