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Three For the Weekend

Every week, Montana Press contributor Kenneth Neill publishes a newsletter, "Three for the Weekend," a commentary on national events with links to three online articles. The Montana Press shares these perspectives weekly on our site.

Apologies, but I find myself this Saturday evening at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn, down the road from my over-heated house.

Turns out that a gasping-for-breath Hurricane Laura had just enough punch left to make a direct hit on Memphis late Thursday evening, huffing and puffing with 40-50 mph gusts, just enough to knock out the equally-feeble Memphis power grid in my neighborhood. 

This happens several times a year here (there are few underground power lines in our older neighborhoods) but in August, when heat is a bigger burden than the absence of light, one simply must surrender and go somewhere else to stay cool.

Given the delay, then, I'll be brief and leave you with these three items for your reading pleasure.

First, a petite essay from The New Yorker, aptly titled "The Fall and Rise of Kamala Harris."  The Senator has come out of the gate well, and as the only one of the four folk on the national ticket who is female, and under the age of 70 (Pence's birth certificate does say he was born in 1959, but don't believe it. He is 79, and Mrs. Pence is 63; that age difference is why she calls him "father"), Kamala will make quite a splash before this is all over.  I'm looking forward to October's VP debate.  

Next is Amy Goodman's interview for Democracy Today with one of my favorite Americans of all time, plucky John Dean, whose new book "Authoritarian Nightmare" neatly links the half century between the two greatest threats to American democracy in modern times.


Not only did John Dean's actions during Watergate help save American democracy for these past five decades; John Dean is also the definitive biographer of one of my favorite presidents, Warren G. Harding.

I digress, I know.  But this peculiar summer of 2020 — I call it the year without vision — marks the centennial of Harding's successful "front porch" campaign for the presidency.  That summer and fall the handsome Republican senator rarely left the friendly confines of his hometown of Marion, Ohio.  Staying home, he won the Presidency in a near landslide.  Remember, 1920 was at the tail end of the last great pandemic. If he were still with us, perhaps he could give us all a few tips.

More importantly: John Dean actually is a native of Marion, Ohio, and thus, when asked, was happy to take on his hometown hero. Actually, Dean's people knew Harding's people, as we still say sometimes in the South, all is explained in the preface. Have I told you that Harding also was the only president to date who was, in real life, a newspaper publisher?  Never mind...

Anyway, our third item this week is a magisterial essay from Rolling Stone entitled "The Unraveling of America" by Wade Davis

Yes, that sounds like he's a descendant of a Confederate general, alright, but in fact Dr. Davis is a Columbian-Canadian anthropologist in Vancouver, whose excellent essay here pretty effectively explains why America's current miserable place in the global pecking-order is so woeful.

Happily, we Americans are still let on the bus, but just barely. The conductors are about to come pick up our tickets and we'd best find out where in the hell we left them.

Kenneth Neill was Publisher and CEO of Memphis magazine and the Memphis Flyer for over 35 years, and he splits his time between Memphis and Montana, where he contributes to the Montana Press.

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