Friday, September 1st, 2023


Road Warriors

"For well over an hour, the people of Llano — a town of about 3,400 deep in Texas Hill Country — approached the podium to speak out against abortion. While the procedure was now illegal across Texas, people were still driving women on Llano roads to reach abortion clinics in other states, the residents had been told. They said their city had a responsibility to 'fight the murders.'" Welcome to the frontlines of America's abortion wars. The voices in Llano probably sound extreme to you, and they are. But they're part of an ongoing religion v secular battle in which only one side has been really been fighting for the last few decades. They've got the Supreme Court, they've got momentum, and they're pushing the pedal to the metal on a highway near you. WaPo (Gift Article): Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting. "Antiabortion advocates behind the measure are targeting regions along interstates and in areas with airports, with the goal of blocking off the main arteries out of Texas and keeping pregnant women hemmed within the confines of their antiabortion state. These provisions have already passed in two counties and two cities, creating legal risk for those traveling on major highways including Interstate 20 and Route 84, which head toward New Mexico, where abortion remains legal and new clinics have opened to accommodate Texas women. Several more jurisdictions are expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks. 'This really is building a wall to stop abortion trafficking,' said Mark Lee Dickson, the antiabortion activist behind the effort." For anyone who cares about this issue, the rubber hit the road a while ago.

+ Texas law aims to punish prosecutors who refuse to pursue abortion cases.


Let’s Talk Shop

"At 535,000 square feet of retail space, this Bass Pro is almost five times the size of the average Walmart. But even that number doesn't quite capture its almost farcical grandeur ... the sales floor, is full of man-made streams and faux cypress trees dripping with decorative Spanish moss. The store's motif is 'lost wilderness,' but I found that it conjured something even more distant: the old-school department store." The Atlantic (Gift Article): Retailers Bet Wrong on America's Feelings About Stores. "The internet was supposed to kill in-person shopping. But have you been to a Bass Pro?" (So many big stores just sat back and watched the internet happen, without making any significant changes to the experience they offered. I basically took up kayaking so I'd have a reason to go to a Bass Pro superstore. It's the perfect place to be outdoorsy indoors.)


Road Scholar

"Waymo and Cruise have driven a combined total of 8 million driverless miles ... That includes more than 4 million in San Francisco since the start of 2023. And because California law requires self-driving companies to report every significant crash, we know a lot about how they've performed." We hear a lot on both sides of the (inevitable) move to self-driving cars. In Ars Technica Timothy Lee asks the one question that matters most. Are self-driving cars already safer than human drivers? Software can be buggy. But as buggy as the average driver you encounter on the road?


Weekend Whats

What to Eat: You may disagree with some of my takes, but let me assure you that, when it comes to one topic in particular, I am the world's pre-eminent expert. I love peanut butter. But more importantly for the statement you are about to read here, I know peanut butter. I know peanut butter the way Da Vinci knew fluid mechanics, the way Einstein knew physics, the way Grandmaster Flash knows his way around a turntable, the way Elon Musk knows how to drive people away from a social media platform. And the best natural peanut butter around is Cream-Nut by Koeze. And let me, for a change, add some real value to your life. The trick to not dealing with a pool of oil on the top of your natural peanut butter is to store the jars upside down.

+ What to Hear: A longtime NextDraft-approved band that features one virtuoso bass player and one drummer is out with a new album and it's sound good so far. Check out Royal Blood's Back to the Water Below.

+ What to Read: "Centuries-old settlement patterns — and the attitudes they spawned about government — are to blame for differences in longevity between red southern states and bluer parts of the country." Think politics don't matter all that much? In Politico, Colin Woodard goes into great deal about how they matter the most. America's Surprising Partisan Divide on Life Expectancy. "Centuries-old settlement patterns — and the attitudes they spawned about government — are to blame for differences in longevity between red southern states and bluer parts of the country."

+ What to Web: Fish doorbells! Historic sandwiches! 50 of the weirdest, most wonderful corners of the web – picked by an expert.


Extra, Extra

The Swift and the Barrier: "After 10 months, Swift's U.S. tour is finished, but so are most of the meaningful reforms consumer advocates and industry groups had hoped to pass this year." Outrage so often dissipates before change happens. After outrage over Taylor Swift tickets, reform has been slow across the US. Meanwhile. Swift just altered the landscape in another economy. Her Eras Tour movie broke presale records in less than three hours.

+ Freeze Frame: He seems to be OK for now, but this week's "freeze" is a reminder that, even if you dislike him, If Mitch McConnell Goes, the Senate Could Get Very Scary. Of course, Mitch isn't the only old politician. Susan Glasser in The New Yorker: The Twilight of Mitch McConnell and the Spectre of 2024. "What if Biden has his own McConnell moment? Imagine it happening in the latter days of the 2024 campaign, with Trump as the Republican nominee and the fate of the free world itself on the line. This is hardly an implausible hypothetical."

+ Gutter Guards: From the Senate to the states, in many cases there are just a handful of officials keeping things from going off the rails. In Georgia, Gov Kemp is an increasingly lonely GOP voice trying to keep the state from punishing Fani Willis for prosecuting a crime we all saw with our own eyes. And there are fewer and fewer members of Congress willing and able to stand up to the coming madness. Kevin McCarthy: House impeachment inquiry into Biden is a ‘natural step forward.'

+ Jetski Conditions: "The Algerian coastguard has shot dead two tourists holidaying in Morocco who reportedly strayed into Algerian waters on their jet skis."

+ Bear Market: "The move delivers a life preserver to the athletic departments at Stanford and Cal, which were left twisting amid the Pac-12's implosion. Stanford has an athletic department that is considered the gold standard in college athletics. Both will face increased travel costs, which will significantly impact a Cal athletic department that faces hundreds of millions in debt." ACC adds Stanford, Cal, SMU as new members beginning 2024-25. Chalk this up as a horrible outcome that was better than the remaining alternatives. Slate: College Football Will Never Look the Same Again. Amazing they still get to use the word college at all.

+ There Goes the Neighborhood: Tech Billionaires Launch California ‘Utopia' Website: See Renderings, New Details.

+ Splitter: "Would he be able to keep kosher while making his way through the small towns that populate the minors? Would he be able to properly observe the Sabbath, abstaining from riding in cars and buses and using any kind of electricity? Could professional baseball and Orthodox Judaism coexist?" WaPo (Gift Article): How the first Orthodox Jew in an MLB organization is making it work. (I'm a reform Jew, but an orthodox baseball fan.) Meanwhile, in other baseball news, Phillies fans can now enter the ballpark using facial authentication in place of a ticket. This tech must be pretty good because Philadelphia sports fans can have some pretty strained expressions.


Feel Good Friday

"The largest crowd to witness a women's sports event filled Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, as 92,003 fans watched the five-time NCAA champion Nebraska volleyball team beat Omaha 3-0."

+ "The People's Fund of Maui, which launched Thursday with their $10 million donation, is intended to provide $1,200 per month for every adult who lives in the affected area and was displaced by the wildfires, according to a news release." Oprah And Dwayne Johnson Make $1,200 Per Month Available To Maui Wildfire Survivors. Malo Lava.

+ AI-discovered drugs will be for sale sooner than you think.

+ If you follow master's track and field, it's hard to miss Sue McDonald's astonishing accomplishments this season, including eight world records in the 60-64 women's age group. The Fastest 60-Year-Old Woman on Earth Is Only Getting Faster.

+ Dog repeatedly escapes animal shelter, sneaks into nursing home, is adopted by residents.

+ "Sarah Bowling was assigned the room randomly, and it just happened to be the one her mother moved into in the fall of 1990." Mother, daughter assigned same Miami University dorm room, 33 years apart. (This makes me feel less weird about my upcoming plans to actually move into my son's dorm with him...)