Your Weekend Reader for Oct. 7-8

by | Oct 7, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

If you’ve read my work over the years — well, first, my apologies.

Second, you probably know that I’ve been a longtime fan of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system — and have been since the first time I got the opportunity to vote by mail after moving here in 2005. So I read with interest this story from Zachary Roth at States Newsroom, which reports on a bushel of new studies concluding that states that send a ballot by mail to every registered voter enjoy a marked increase in turnout. (This, of course, is the practice that Oregon follows; it’s called universal vote-by-mail.) In all, eight states use universal vote by mail, and it’s long been a mystery to me why more states haven’t adopted this practice — unless, of course, those other states don’t want more people to vote.

While we’re talking about elections, The Associated Press has a new story about a Connecticut case alleging fraud at ballot drop boxes; Your relatives will be referring to this story for years to come in their social media posts as “evidence” that voting fraud is real. The story, to its credit, does report that ballot drop boxes are safe and secure. But I wish it also had pointed out that election officials have additional safeguards in place to fight election fraud; in Oregon, for example, clerks still match the signatures on election envelopes with signatures on file, and set aside for follow-up signatures that don’t appear to match. This is part of the reason why Oregon vote-by-mail elections have never been subject to any sort of widespread fraud. (And there’s a simple solution if you’re really worried about ballot drop boxes: Include a postage-paid return envelope with ballots, the way Oregon does.)

The New York Times has a fascinating (but somewhat depressing) story focusing on two families who decided they had had enough of the political environment in their states and decided to move to another state. One of the families moved from Oregon (Portland, of course) to a small town in Missouri. The Times says it’s an increasing phenomenon, and I can understand it a little bit: I think I would have a hard time moving back to Montana these days.

The Associated Press has an impressive new collection of stories about the “nones” — those people who consider themselves nonreligious. One scholar of religion says that the decades-long growth in the ranks of the nones is the “most important story without a shadow of a doubt” in U.S. religion today. In the United States, the AP reports, the one trait that’s common among the “nones” is that they really don’t like organized religion — or have still-healing wounds from previous run-ins with churches.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino just outside Pendleton was the site of the 2023 Northwest Native Fashion show this past week. It’s the second outing for the fashion show, dreamed up by a pair of Indigenous economic developers and meant as a showcase for Native designers who are looking to build professional careers. The event was part of the Northwest Native Economic Summit, where attendees learned how to support and grow tribal businesses. Antonio Sierra of OPB covered the fashion show.

I haven’t spent much time on X, formerly Twitter, since Elon Musk bought the company, but have continued to marvel about how Musk has tirelessly worked to make the platform much less useful. His latest decision, to eliminate headlines from posts, seems to be another step in that direction. And yet — people still are using X, and devising workarounds for every new “innovation.” Maybe the platform is indestructible, even for Musk.

There’s a bit of Lee Enterprises news this week, although it involves the Lee property in Buffalo, The Buffalo News. Since assuming ownership of the Buffalo paper as part of its deal to acquire the papers formerly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, Lee has done what Lee does well — institute big cost cuts. The latest cut: The News now is printed in Cleveland, Ohio, and copies will be trucked into the Buffalo market, about 200 miles away. (As far as I know, the Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald — two other Lee papers — still are printed in Albany.)

Speaking of journalism, have you heard about County Highway, the new print-only newspaper that focuses on long-form stories and doesn’t have an internet site? The front page is designed to look like an 19th-century newspaper. The idea is to get readers to read stories printed on actual paper — which I do believe is a fundamentally different experience than reading news online. The first issue sold out. The plan is to publish six editions each year. So, yes — despite its tagline as “America’s Only Newspaper” — the County Highway, although it’s a welcome addition, essentially is a magazine.

Here’s Joshua Benton, of the Nieman Lab, writing about academic research that tries to examine the link between “news” and “relevance” — a connection that seems obvious enough from the 10,000-foot view, but gets fuzzier and more complicated the closer that you look.

If you’re reading this early enough on Saturday, you might still have time to drive up to Portland to catch some of the first “Louie Louie” marathon — a 24-hour event that will feature 70 or so acts playing their versions of the iconic (and lyrically unintelligible) Northwest classic. As Samantha Swindler of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports, attendees will hear, among other earworms, a bagpipe version, a marching band version and a 30-minute doom-metal version. Appropriately, the current lineup of The Kingsmen will perform the song at the start of the marathon and as the finale. It all starts at 6 p.m. Saturday at Portland’s AFRU (Art Freaks Are Us Gallery), 534 SE Oak St. The great rock critic Greil Marcus once asked: “Has there ever been a bad version of ‘Louie Louie?'” These 24 hours could provide the answer.

Could it be that there is no fresh news this week about the collapse of the Pac-12 Conference? Well, as we like to say, maybe no news is good news — but that’s what we used to say as we waited for the conference to unveil that media deal.

That’s it for this weekend. I probably won’t see you at the “louie Louie” marathon — but I will be humming the tune this weekend as I walk my dad’s dog.

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