Watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) volunteer at a food bank in Texas last weekend (while also raising millions of dollars for disaster relief), I thought of the legendary Tip O’Neill. In 1982 (when I was five years old), O’Neill was trying to get a giant infrastructure bill passed. The Republican Leader of the era, (Robert H. Michel, R-IL), opposed the bill… so the ultimate Bostonian O’Neill traveled to Peoria, Illinois to give a speech in Michel’s district where he explained how the bill would repair the local infrastructure (bridges, etc), wreaking havoc on Michel’s re-election prospects. All politics is local, and…

In the noise of the post-election you may have missed my silence. It was unintentional: a broken ankle required significant surgery, and the recovery has been complicated. But I am feeling better — finally, cautiously, walking (with some assistance) — and in the mood to write. Be careful what you wish for…

My wife says it is unbecoming to say “I told you so”, but the last few weeks have been full of “I told you so” moments, cold comfort though they are. Some are lifted right from my 2013 book (the Gamestop madness, hackers capturing essential utilities, corporations creating…

Last weekend I read an excellent novel about an Iraq War hero who is invited to officiate at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day Half-Time show. By turns hilarious and tragic (in the classical sense), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is perfect metaphor for our time. I thought about it all week; go read it. This quote is about George W. Bush but could have been written about this week:

“At some point Billy realized he was expecting the president to act, well, embarrassed? Ashamed? For how fucked up everything obviously was. …

Ah, 2020. What a year. This New Year’s Eve I’m thinking of a sculpture I saw years ago at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. “Milkstone” by Wolfgang Laib is a large square slab of white marble sitting on the floor of an empty room, rising just a few inches above the cement. At first, it seemed one of those all-too-clever echoes of Duchamp. But a tremor echoed across the surface of the marble — maybe someone walked across the room and the floor shook ever so slightly — and I realized that it wasn’t just marble; it was also…

It’s a bright, cold Sunday morning with snow on the ground. The kids have evacuated the house at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the snow before it melts. With any luck, none of them will break any bones. I started to do some holiday shopping — online, of course — and got stuck. There is no other company or brand that elicits such complicated, contradictory feelings for me as Amazon. In so many ways, it is an essential utility for our life — and in so many ways, what’s wrong with the country.

Is the more powerful…

Happy Thanksgiving. It may sound trite, but I am thankful for you — writing this newsletter has been a great gift for me, and would I write if no one was reading? Well, I know my mother and father will always be reading. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I’m thankful for you, even if I don’t know when I’ll see you again since we live on separate coasts and COVID separates us.

I haven’t written you since the day before the election — I needed a break, a chance to cleanse my palette — and on this cold, dark Thanksgiving…

At this point, about 100 million Americans have voted. That’s roughly 2/3rds of the total votes we expect to cast this year — so it is possible that the outcome is already decided, the results resting mutely in stacks of unopened ballots waiting to be counted.

It is hard to make any assumptions this election, but right now it looks to me like either a landslide or a close win for Biden. A close win carries risks of shenanigans that could tear the country apart; indeed, Trump appears to be planning on it. I have obsessed over the qualitative and…

Although I have advised everyone — myself included — to ignore the “horserace” and stay focused on getting every American to participate… I am obsessed (as I am every year) and so I offer you my round-up of where we stand right now. I am, of course, watching the Senate and House closely, as well as the control of the state legislatures as we went this critical redistricting year. The Missouri governor’s race is also on my radar as a potential sleeper surprise. For election night tracking, I recommend my friend Evan Grossman’s election night survival guide. …

I want to write about the passing of Jerry Jeff Walker, whose album ¡Viva Terlingua! Is perhaps my favorite country music album (it was recorded in Luckenbach, Texas using hay bales for sound baffles). I could say a lot about Jerry Jeff Walker and country music. But my desire to do that is preempted by my obsessive compulsive behavior around the election, so here it goes:

Over the next few days, you will see a giant avalanche of polls and predictions on voter turnout and vote-by-mail. It is a data nerd’s paradise of especially dubious value in a year like…

My late grandfather introduced me to many things — the Desolation Wilderness, how to use a rock saw, how to build a log cabin, Louis L’Amour, P.G Wodehouse, escargot — but perhaps first and foremost there was Tom Lehrer. A chemical geologist, my grandfather offered me a substantial sum of money if I memorized Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Elements’, which to my regret I did not. Tom Lehrer is now 92 — with a formidable mathematical and musical legacy.

I thought of Tom Lehrer’s 2002 comment this week: “Things I once thought were funny are scary now. I often feel like…

Nicco Mele

formerly of @LATimes & @Kennedy_School - author of The End of Big - lots more at http://nicco.org

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