The Big Story Concerned the voters were turning against Vice President Kamala Harris so early in the Biden administration, a group of powerful Democrats held an emergency dinner last month. The crisis meeting was hosted by former Clinton advisor and political strategist Kiki McLean and attended by “a group of the Democratic Party’s most influential women,” according to the report in Axios that broke the news of the meeting. The perceived need for the crisis meeting signaled a growing feeling among senior Democrats that the negative public image of Harris—a front-runner to replace Joe Biden in the White House in 2024—has become an urgent problem. In some respects, Harris was an unusual choice for VP, given her mediocre performance in the primaries: In November 2019, a month before dropping out of the race, she was polling at 6% among Black voters. Harris’ popularity took another hit after she was assigned to the border crisis in March, a role that generated a raft of bad press and in June sent her approval ratings into the negative column for the first time. A source present at the meeting revealed that one strategy under consideration is framing press coverage critical of Harris as sexist. “Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC,” the source said.\n\nRead it here: https://www.axios.com/kamala-harris-press-coverage-crisis-dinner-7139cfc7-754b-42aa-a411-95716273dbb0.html\n\nToday’s Back Pages: So-Called “Immortality’\nThe RestA recent Pew study on attitudes among American Jews is highlighted in today’s Wall Street Journal for what it reveals about the growth of Chabad and the Hasidic organization’s unique ability to minister to “Jews of no religion.” The poll suggests that “you do not have to be assimilated to reach other assimilated Jews. In fact, Chabad shows that it’s actually better to be engaged and Jewishly learned to succeed.”\nRead it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/chabad-lubavitch-jews-judaism-religion-pew-demographics-11628177649\n\nPresident Biden will sign an executive order mandating that by 2030, roughly half of all new vehicles sold in the United States must be electric, hydrogen-fuel, or hybrids. Leading car makers such as General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler offered conditional support for the plan, dependent on the government investing in the infrastructure to support the new “green” vehicle fleet. The Senate infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion in grants for local governments to build vehicle-charging stations, along with more than $6 billion for developing and manufacturing batteries. (Speaking of electric cars ... that reminds us of a point made recently by Tablet's literary editor David Samuels: "Elon Musk has built over a million electric cars or whatever the number is, cool cars that real people pay real money for and want to drive, while the number of cars that you and your friends have built, or successfully mandated must be built by someone else by the year 2035 in the State of California is ... zero. Or some number like that. Let’s call it ... Zero. No cars.")\n\nWith an audible sob in his throat, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on the Senate floor Thursday that Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, had unexpectedly died overnight at age 72. “The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most,” Schumer said of the man who was arguably the most powerful labor leader in the United States before his passing.\n\nAs lockdowns eased, Uber doubled the revenue it earned from users booking rides this quarter compared to the same period last year. But the $21.9 billion in revenue was not enough to make up for a net loss of $509 million, which the company said is due to its to “elevated investments” to attract and keep drivers in a competitive job market, which include taking a lower cut of transactions. \n\nTablet staffer Noam Blum explains why fringe issues with minimal public support end up getting adopted by mainstream politicians: “Online mobs are almost like lobby groups now.”It's a wider issue. The terminally online class is disproportionally loud in the ears of politicians. Online mobs are almost like lobby groups now. It's easy to get swept up in that and get the wrong impression of larger trends.\n\n— Noam Blum (@neontaster) August 5, 2021Rihanna—already a beautiful pop star, now also a billionaire. The Barbadian singer is worth $1.7 billion, with the great majority of that, an estimated $1.4 billion, coming from her cosmetics company, Fenty.\nThe Back PagesSo-Called “Immortality”\n\nToday’s Back Pages comes from Zohar Atkins, a rabbi and poet who writes at the Substack “What Is Called Thinking.”\n\nOne of the big frontiers in tech is “anti-aging.” Minimally, this looks like fighting senescence. Maximally, it looks like extending longevity to the point of so-called “immortality.”\n\nIf tech can get people to live an extra 20 or 50 years and to have those years be qualitatively better than what we currently get, I’m generally for it. But, seeing so much anxiety, depression, and despair in the world, even as tech improves, makes me skeptical that the problem of aging is the problem.\n\nIf I could help people work through their heartbreak, melancholy, and agony, I’d consider that a bigger win for humanity than extending life.\n\nTo be crass, why do we want more portions of food we aren’t eating? Shouldn’t we focus on making the food more delicious first? (I realize it’s a false binary and that we should do both; but assuming one has to choose where to put their limited focus … )\n\nIf you take my argument to its logical conclusion, though, it leads to a troubling place. So much of society is already currently oriented around the value of extending life regardless of its quality. To suggest that we should consider the worthiness of life invites accusations of eugenics and death panels. Who gets to judge what makes a life worthy? And even if you say that only the individual gets to judge—their body, their choice—this seems to misrepresent the value of life as being entirely and reducibly subjective. Why should I be the sole judge of my life’s worth and meaning? Even if we assume (methodologically) an atheistic world, the presence of others who find my life meaningful should count for something.\n\nGiorgio Agamben, following Roman law, introduces a distinction between “bare life” (Zöe) and “quality of life” (Bios). Longevity investors follow the idea that more bare life is marginally better (or simply more attainable) than more bios. If you agree with this, then you should theoretically want people to live for hundreds of thousands of years. Only the recognition that quality of life also matters puts a limit on optimizing for life extension. But if you over-emphasize quality of life, you may end up devaluing life extension so much that you regress to pre-modern conditions in which mortality rates were much higher. Utilitarianism might give different answers to these questions depending on how we define our terms, but while utilitarianism may be a lesser evil instrument for social policy, it can’t answer the meta-question of how we as individuals should weigh quality of life relative to quantity of life—which is a metaphysical and phenomenological problem.\n\nThe extreme anti-longevity argument is that it is good and important to know how to die, not just how to extend life. The extreme pro-longevity argument is that the ability to have more years doesn’t mean we are forced to opt-in. If you want a shorter life, that’s your choice. But why not let the people who want to live for aeons decide what they want. All else being equal, more is better.\n\n\nFollow atkins on Twitter @ZoharAtkins.