Monday, March 2nd, 2020


Quarantine Age Wasteland

Full disclosure. I'm happy to have an excuse not to shake your hand. And between WiFi, weed delivery, and streaming video, self-quarantine has long been my lifestyle of choice. So coronavirus didn't have me particularly worried about my own well being. But it turns out that nothing is more likely to make me panic than being told not to panic when I'm not panicking. So let's worry together (but apart) along with The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum. "Even though we have the highest-tech health-care system in the world, even though we have the best surgeons and the best equipment, we have not created a public-health culture that induces confidence. The hospital system has been pared down to the bone; there is no extra capacity, and everyone knows it. If people have to pay to be tested, then many may refuse. If people have to be quarantined, they may escape. Worse, instead of seeking to halt conspiracy theories, it is possible that our government will create them." Epidemics Reveal the Truth About the Societies They Hit. (At this point, any truth seems like a positive.)

+ "It was named the Spanish flu not because it originated in Spain but because when the king, Alfonso XIII, fell ill, the Spanish press was not bound by restrictions against reporting it. Throughout history, diseases have posed an unsparing test of political leaders and their fidelity to the facts." The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: How Political Spin Has Worsened Epidemics.

+ WaPo's Margaret Sullivan: Trump is pushing a dangerous, false spin on coronavirus — and the media is helping him spread it. (You can replace "coronavirus" with almost any issue, and that headline remains accurate.)

+ "In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government's entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure ... If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is—not just for the public but for the government itself, which largely finds itself in the dark." FP: Trump Has Sabotaged America's Coronavirus Response.

+ Buzzfeed: The Leader Of The Religious Sect That Spread Coronavirus In South Korea Says Sorry. "Lee, who claims he is the second coming of Jesus Christ, has previously called coronavirus the 'devil's deed' to stop his church's growth." Meanwhile, South Koreans are using smartphone apps to avoid the virus.

+ MIT Tech Review: How to prepare for the coronavirus like a pro.

+ Bloomberg: "China's lockdown measures to minimize further coronavirus infections have created one unexpected benefit -- a dramatic improvement to the nation's air quality."

+ Cases near the 100,000 mark, the death toll has topped 3,000, and stocks attempt a comeback. Here's the latest from WaPo and The Guardian.


Scotus Relapse

Speaking of the health of the country, the Supreme Court will once again consider fate of Affordable Care Act. The decision by the Court comes a day before Super Tuesday during an election year when health care could be the defining issue.

+ "RIP Medical Debt has forgiven nearly $1.4 billion worth of debt, which is simultaneously a lot and not nearly enough." Vice: This Group Frees People From the Prison of Medical Debt, One at a Time.


Shaky AF(ghanistan)

"The discussions are being made even harder by the prisoner swap requirement, which says the government must release up to 5,000 Taliban fighters and the Taliban must free up to 1,000 Afghan security forces. The militant group has long pushed for this, mainly because it would help build up its ranks, but Kabul fiercely rejects the idea." Vox: Trump's Afghanistan peace deal just hit its first major obstacle. (I certainly don't know what the solution is. But a super power negotiating a deal to essentially hand the country back to the Taliban is not what I had in mind when I heard the word, winning.) means.

+ Few troops, fewer vets, fewer headlines. NYT: Why Afghanistan Became an Invisible War.


Living on Tulsa Time

"The program reflects a new economic development strategy that Tulsa is among the first to pilot. Traditionally, cities looking to spur their economies may offer incentives to attract businesses. But at a time when Americans are moving less frequently than they have in more than half a century ... Tulsa is one of several locales testing out a new premise: Pay people instead." CityLab: What Happened When Tulsa Paid People to Work Remotely?


Everything in Moderation

Since Joe Biden's sweeping win in the South Carolina primary, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar have all dropped out of the race, in what looks like an effort to leave Biden as the sole moderate in the race (aside from Bloomberg).

+ It was a pretty amazing run by Mayor Pete who beat all expectations and made history for gay Americans. "One of the wonders of his unprecedented campaign was how little his sexual orientation was talked about as his bid progressed." Frank Bruni in the NYT: Mayor Pete Flew Sky High.

+ If the last 48 hours in American politics has taught us anything, it's that the people making predictions during the previous 48,000 hours didn't know much. The New Yorker's Jill Lepore: The Problems Inherent in Political Polling.


Sequel with a New Cast

"The issue of abortion providers' relationship with local hospitals is familiar to the high court because in 2016, the court struck down a similar law from Texas. The only thing that has changed since then is the makeup of the Supreme Court, notably Trump's appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to take the place of the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy." On Wednesday, a very familiar (and wildly crucial) case will be argued at the Supreme Court. AP: A clinic prepares for Supreme Court abortion fight. (Full disclosure: I'm a supporter of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization arguing the case on behalf of the Louisiana clinic involved in this case.)

+ The big legal cases are just one of the strategies being effectively deployed against women's health clinics. Bloomberg: Abortion Clinics Are Getting Nickel-and-Dimed Out of Business.


I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins

"It took the arrival of such a leader to reveal how many things that had always seemed engraved in monumental stone turned out to depend on those flimsy norms, and how much the norms depended on public opinion. Their vanishing exposed the real power of the presidency. Legal precedent could be deleted with a keystroke; law enforcement's independence from the White House was optional; the separation of powers turned out to be a gentleman's agreement; transparent lies were more potent than solid facts." George Packer in The Atlantic: The President Is Winning His War on American Institutions.

+ Related: "An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial."


Wipe For Disruption

"This, I thought, was a sad day not just for me, but for Earth. I have long tried to help the planet by buying whatever household products cause the least amount of harm, like reusable water bottles and canvas shopping bags, but it's hard to know what really makes a difference. There didn't seem to be any ambiguity about Scott Tube-Free, though.
How could Scott, and its parent company, Kimberly-Clark, justify taking away the only product of its kind?" Emily Flitter in the NYT: My Tireless Quest for a Tubeless Roll of Toilet Paper.


And Doggone It, People Like Me

Wired: Welcome to Botnet, Where Everyone's an Influencer. "Botnet looks like a stripped-down Facebook Newsfeed, where the only posts you can see are your own. It's just you and the bots, who like and comment on your posts with reckless abandon. Botnet is designed to simulate the experience of mega-fame on the internet, Chasen told me—not just a microcelebrity or nano-influencer, but someone on the order of Kylie Jenner or Cristiano Ronaldo. Every post on Botnet receives hundreds of thousands of likes, no matter how banal the subject matter." (I'm gonna download this and freak the hell out of my kids with my popularity.)


Bottom of the News

"I had come to this place just outside the town of Saluda, forty miles south of Asheville, for Prepper Camp, a three-day weekend gathering that would draw twelve hundred people to learn how to survive what they call TEOTWAWKI, or The End of the World as We Know It." Lauren Groff goes to Apocalypse Camp: Waiting for the End of the World. (My local Costco looked like Apocalypse Camp over the weekend.)

+ A headline for the ages: Public Enemy boots Flavor Flav from group after Bernie Sanders rally dispute.

+ Another judicial appointment for Trump? Judge Judy Is Ending After 24 Years.

+ Penn State students gather to hold vigil for sudden closing of Taco Bell.

+ A man was hospitalized twice in 24 hours with a 12-hour erection, then a 6-hour erection. His doctors blame marijuana. (Blame?)