Your Weekend Reader for Dec. 18-19

by | Dec 18, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment, Journalism, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

My Day-Timer tells me that this was the weekend I had set aside to do all my Christmas errands, which means — they’re not all going to get done again this year. Well, live and learn, they always say — except I never actually seem to learn.

If, like me, you’ d rather read some interesting stories pulled from around the web than tackle those undone errands (or if you’re already checked all the items off your list and have some time to spare), here you go:

Let’s start this week as we seem to start so many weeks, by checking in on The Atlantic’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the coronavirus. Here’s the latest story by its ace health reporter, Ed Yong, in which he makes a compelling case why the United States is simply not prepared for the omicron variant. “Like the variants that preceded it,” Yong writes, Omicron requires individuals to think and act for the collective good—which is to say, it poses a heightened version of the same challenge that the U.S. has failed for two straight years, in bipartisan fashion.”

The news looks a little better for people who have gotten booster shots, but that only covers about 17% of the population right now. So one takeaway is this: Get your booster shot now. The outlook is more troubling on the societal side. Yong explains:

Here, then, is the problem: People who are unlikely to be hospitalized by Omicron might still feel reasonably protected, but they can spread the virus to those who are more vulnerable, quickly enough to seriously batter an already collapsing health-care system that will then struggle to care for anyone—vaccinated, boosted, or otherwise. The collective threat is substantially greater than the individual one. And the U.S. is ill-poised to meet it.

A couple of notes on this: First, hats off to The Atlantic for putting all of its coronavirus coverage outside of its pay wall. Every media outlet should follow that example. Second, check out the Oregon Capital Chronicle’s story about the alarming forecast for Oregon, which could find 3,000 COVID cases requiring hospitalization by February. Finally, on the somewhat less-burning question of whether to capitalize “omicron” and other coronavirus variants: The Associated Press Stylebook, which Your Weekend Reader tries to follow, says that coronavirus variants should not be capitalized. The Atlantic disagrees — which actually makes somewhat more sense to me. But the whole point of following style is to ensure that everyone doesn’t make up their own rules as they go along — kind of like the U.S. Supreme Court is doing these days. Which brings up our next item:

Did you laugh, as I did, when California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would pursue restrictions on guns, based on the unusual structure of the Texas abortion law? (The Texas abortion law delegates enforcement to citizens instead of to state officials, an approach which, thus far, has proven successful at shielding it from serious judicial review from the U.S. Supreme Court.) Newsom’s “good for the goose, good for the gander” strategy seems clever — turnabout is fair play, right? — but, as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer argues, it’s doomed to failure, because it’s increasingly clear that the high court will bend laws and precedent in order to reach the conclusion it wants. The court, Serwer writes, is playing “Calvinball,” a reference to a game in the beloved “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip in which the players make up the rules as they go along.

You might have missed that NuScale, the nuclear power company based on technology developed at Oregon State University, is going public. Mike Rogoway of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that NuScale will merge with a publicly traded investment fund in a deal that could raise as much as $413 million and would give the company a total value of $1.9 billion, including debt. The company is working to developed so-called “small modular reactors,” which it says are safer and less-expensive than conventional reactors. (The Oregonian, by the way, says that NuScale is based in Portland, and while it’s true that the company has its headquarters in Portland, it has about 300 employees based in Corvallis and just 23 in Portland.)

All politics is local, right? That’s what Tip O’Neill famously believed, and it’s advice that an unexpected group is trying to follow: The New York Times is reporting that the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group that’s made appearances at rallies in Salem and Portland, among other locales, has retooled its strategy to focus on local entities such as school boards and city councils. The Times’ Sheera Frenkel has the story.

Speaking of local politics, state Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin and Rep. Dan Rayfield now say they’re going to pass on running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat being vacated by Peter DeFazio. Nevertheless, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports that the race is attracting plenty of attention from Democrats, including some newcomers to the state’s political scene.

Back when I was working at the Gazette-Times, I was pleased when I was able to add Oregon-based political cartoons by Eugene’s Jesse Springer to the paper’s Opinion page. (The paper still runs them, thankfully, despite big cutbacks in the paper’s freelance budget.) Now, as The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Amy Wang reports, Springer has compiled more than 200 of his favorite cartoons in a new paperback book, “Only in Oregon.”

James Day at the Gazette-Times produced a nice appreciation story about the life and legacy of Corvallis architect and artist Cy Stadsvold, who died on Nov. 29. It’s a bit of a shame that the story didn’t appear earlier, but that tells you something about how understaffed the paper is these days.

Finally, as we approach the end of 2021, we might be looking for ways to summarize the last 12 months. The New York Times’ Dodai Stewart has what seems like an apt metaphor: This year was a year in limbo.

That’s it for this weekend. See you next weekend — it’ll be Christmas weekend! — and I promise to track down and include “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,” maybe the last really good newspaper editorial ever. Speaking of the holidays, only a few more days remain for you to nominate a favorite holiday song for my Holiday Music Hall of Fame.

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