Your Weekend Reader for May 18-19

by | May 18, 2024 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Tuesday is Election Day, as loyal Weekend Reader readers know. Election officials say that if you haven’t filled out your ballot yet, it’s best now to drop it off at an official ballot drop-off box. (It’s true that a mailed ballot that’s postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday will count if it arrives at election offices within seven days after the election, but there’s no need to take that chance if you have easy access to a drop-off box.)

Speaking of election ballots, there was a mix-up this week that resulted in a minor delay in the delivery of ballots to election clerks in Lincoln and Douglas counties. State officials blamed the issue on “miscommunication” with postal workers. The matter was resolved by Friday morning. The delay did not affect ballot returns and did not affect voters’ ability to cast ballots safely and securely. But that didn’t stop state Republican leaders from raising unfounded questions about Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, as Julia Shumway reported for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Vote-by-mail opponents lately have seized upon every opportunity to attack the system — just as Republicans nationally are raising unfounded doubts about voter fraud. You may think that Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is so popular among voters that it will withstand this sort of attack — and there’s some truth to that, but who knows how it will hold up against years of this sort of generally groundless planting of small doubts.

I wonder if these doubters have caught wind of this news: Some top Republicans, possibly including Donald Trump, now appear to embracing voting by mail, according to this Associated Press story.

But maybe we just don’t care anymore: Turnout in this election as of Friday in Benton County was a shockingly low 14.6% — only eight counties across Oregon have lower turnouts thus far. The only consolation here is that the Benton County number is slightly ahead of the state number, 14.1%.

In a related story, here’s this week’s long (but essential) read: Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic explains how autocrats throughout the world have turned their propaganda campaigns outside their borders to attack “the very ideas of democracy and freedom.” The goal, she writes, is to discredit those ideas, “especially in the places where they have historically flourished.” And the campaigns are gaining ground, she concludes, thanks in part to support from unexpected sources — such as MAGA Republicans.

Meanwhile, one of the key demands of the campus protests across the nation about the war between Israel and Hamas is that universities divest themselves from companies that are supporting or doing business with Israel. But as Ted Sickinger of The Oregonian/OregonLive explains in this piece, divestiture is considerably more complicated than scrawling the word on a protest sign — and it could be counterproductive.

The U.S. Census Bureau released new population estimates for Oregon cities and towns on Thursday, and the news was generally OK for mid-valley venues, which mostly reported slight increases in population. Corvallis came in with 61,087 residents, a growth of 104 souls over the past year. Albany, at 57,053, grew by 92 residents, according to the census numbers. Lebanon continued its march to 20,000 residents; its population estimate put it at 19,726, an increase of 284. Sweet Home sits at 10,206 residents, an increase of 108. The only mid-valley city to lose residents was Philomath, which dropped by nine residents to 5,714. Portland continues to shed residents, but at a slower rate; it has 630,498 residents, the census numbers say. Kristine de Leon of The Oregonian/OregonLive has compiled a handy chart you can use to look up your town.

After being criticized for a lack of “viewpoint diversity,” NPR this week announced new layers of editorial oversight aimed at reaching into every corner of its news-gathering operation. Sarah Scire of the Nieman Lab wrote about the new initiative.

Love “Jeopardy!” but think the questions are just a little esoteric? Well, grab a couple of your friends and see if your team can qualify for the new “Pop Culture Jeopardy!,” which seems like a cross between the venerable game show and trivia night at your favorite pub. No premiere date has been announced, and the show will stream on Amazon Prime Video. Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive (who spends a surprising amount of time writing about “Jeopardy!” contestants from the Northwest), has the details.

Here’s a piece from the Times that’s an intriguing mix of writer and subject: Columnist Maureen Dowd has a long, and enlightening, conversation with Bill Maher, the iconoclastic comedian who hosts HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Maher can strike me as occasionally being too smug, but his interviews and commentaries on the show often cut deeper than what you typically find on topical comedy programs.

Is Francis Ford Coppola’s new movie “Megalopolis” a great film or an incoherent mess — or maybe a little of both? Manohla Dargis of the Times saw it this week when it premiered at Cannes — and generally liked it, despite flaws. And Coppola himself opened up to Jake Coyle of The Associated Press for this interview.

Finally this week, something unexpected: Here’s a New York Times story about Cass Elliot, the gifted singer for The Mamas and the Papas, who died much too early 50 years ago this July. The legend is that Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwich — but that simply isn’t true. Lindsay Zoladz sets the record straight — and seeks to fully assess Elliot’s career, which was far more vibrant than I had thought.

That’s it for this weekend. Don’t forget about that election.

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