Thursday was the International Day of Democracy. Did you throw a party to mark the occasion? Or was it more of a wake?
In the United States, a group of journalists marked Democracy Day by working collaboratively on stories highlighting threats to democracy. The stories included this one from the Oregon Capital Chronicle’s Julia Shumway, about how state election officials are receiving an increasing number of messages about election-fraud conspiracies. It’s an ominous trend, of course, so this bears repeating here (even though I know I’m preaching to the choir): There is no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election and Oregon’s vote-by-mail system has unique safeguards against fraud. (Full disclosure again: I occasionally do freelance work for the Capital Chronicle.)
Bigger newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have launched beats to track threats to democracy. That’s good news. The bad news is that there’s no shortage of stories on the beat.
On the national front, of course, you can expect the Times to weigh in with excellent coverage of the challenges facing democracy. For example, here’s an excerpt from a new story from David Leonhardt weighing in on two crises in the United States:
The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election. … The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.
Here’s a fun fact from Leonhardt’s story: A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found that 69 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans said that democracy was “in danger of collapse.” Leonhardt goes on to make this wry observation: “Of course, the two sides have very different opinions about the nature of the threat.”
If you’re just tuning into the threats facing democracy, Leonhardt’s story is a great place to start. And it’s worth noting that the story contains a handful of possible solutions. Whether we can put those into effect before we face a full-fledged crisis is another question entirely.
The Atlantic’s David Graham has a new piece reflecting on former President Donald Trump’s thinly veiled hints that violence might erupt if he faces criminal charges from any of the numerous investigations underway. The irony, Graham says, is that Trump’s strategy likely won’t pay off for him, but it still could inflict severe damage on our democracy. Actually scratch that: It’s not ironic at all, but would be if Trump cared about democracy.
And here’s a suggestion to the Times and the Post and other big news organizations: Consider putting your coverage of the threats facing democracy outside of your paywall, the way The Atlantic did with its coronavirus coverage. (In the meantime, if you’re not a Times subscriber, I can send you a “gift” link to any Times story I mention here. Just drop me a note in the comments section below.)
That $1 billion lawsuit filed by Linn County and other plaintiffs over timber harvests on Oregon state trust forestlands appears to be dead: The Oregon Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from the state Court of Appeals, which ruled against the plaintiff’s argument that the state had a contractual agreement to maximize timber harvests on the land in question — and thereby shortchanged the counties, which relied on some extent on the timber revenue. The Court of Appeals ruled that the judge in Linn County who oversaw the trial in which a jury awarded the plaintiffs more than $1.1 billion in damages should have dismissed the suit. The case is not appealable to the U.S. Supreme Court. You might recall that Benton County is one of the plaintiffs. The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Aimee Green broke the news Friday. The Oregonian story is a subscriber exclusive, but you can catch up on the case by reading my Oregon Capital Chronicle story written when the plaintiffs filed their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Climate change has created new challenges for those intrepid souls who choose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Wildfires present the biggest risk for hikers, but it also is more difficult now to track down nice-to-have supplies such as drinking water. The New York Times had the story. (Again, the story is available to Times subscribers only, but I can send you a link.)
Bill Maher had some harsh words in the Friday episode of his HBO show “Real Time” for what he believes is the overly woke curriculum at Portland Public Schools. I don’t know what you think of Maher, but I think he’s hit-and-miss — sometimes right on target, and sometimes way off. This may fall into the latter category, but judge for yourself.
Here’s Nick Daschel, who covers Oregon State University athletics for The Oregonian/OregonLive, writing about that new $5 million video board at Reser Stadium. Getting it ready for the opener against Boise State sparked some nervous moments, but it’s up and running and apparently very impressive, Daschel reports. (The story is exclusive to Oregonian subscribers.) And Daschel earns extra points for answering a reader’s question about what happened to the old scoreboard. Here’s a spoiler: It’s not a pretty end.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland — one of my favorite go-to spots in Oregon — continues to work through tough times in the wake of the pandemic (and smoke from wildfires fueled in part by climate change). On Friday, the festival announced cutbacks to its 2023 season, which will shrink to five shows from the seven originally planned. (By comparison, as Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports in this story, the 2019 season featured 11 shows.) Just two of the shows in 2023 will be by Shakespeare, and they’ll be crowd-pleasers “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” In other words, this won’t be the season to see one of the Bard’s rarely performed plays to complete your personal canon. (But you should note that the current season’s provocative production of the rarely performed “King John” continues to run as part of OSF’s 2022 season, through Oct. 29.)
If you’re curious about other rarely performed Shakespeare plays, you also should note that the Majestic Theatre’s Rachel Kohler has mashed together the three “Henry VI” plays into “William Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses,” which plays this weekend and next at the Majestic. Now, if you’re a Shakespeare geek (guilty as charged), you might be outraged that anyone would combine these three plays into one — but you also know that this practice is increasingly common for theater companies. In fact, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival itself was showcasing “Bring Down the House,” upstart crow collective’s two-part adaptation of the trilogy, in 2020 — for two weeks before the pandemic, well, brought down the house. As it turns out, upstart crow collective is the creative force behind OSF’s “King John.”
(Curious about which Shakespeare plays are most commonly performed at OSF — and which ones the least? Here’s the answer: “Twelfth Night” is the most frequently performed: Next season’s production will be the 18th. “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” which actually might not be part of the canon, has only been staged once at OSF, in 1994.
Now, that’s three paragraphs about Shakespeare, which sets a Weekend Reader record. But here’s more: If you’re curious about Kohler’s heavy metal-inspired “Wars of the Roses,” you should check out my preview story about the show.
Finally this week, something fun for you dog fans: What does your dog really know about you? More than you might think, argues Alexandra Horowitz in this piece from The Atlantic. It’s an excerpt from her new book, “The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves.” (The story is available only to Atlantic subscribers; I probably can’t make the case to The Atlantic that it should put its pet coverage outside its paywall.)
Now it’s probably time to take the dog for a walk, right? Go take care of that, and I’ll see you next weekend.