Wednesday, March 25th, 2020


I Found My Trill

I Found My Trill, on Capitol Hill. Two Trill actually. How do you know this pandemic is serious? They just got a bipartisan deal done in Congress. The T's need to be crossed, the I's need to be dotted, and those families waiting for their checks need to be patient. "Americans with direct-deposit bank account information on file with the Internal Revenue Service for tax refunds — about 70 million people — should see their payments arrive within a few weeks of the bill being signed into law. Eligible Americans who do not have such information on file, and thus will be waiting for a check in the mail from the I.R.S., will need to wait up to four months to receive one." NYT: Here's What We Know So Far About the Aid Bill.

+ Vox: The Senate has struck a $2 trillion deal on the coronavirus stimulus. Here's what's in it.

+ And here's what's not: "The deal specifically states that businesses owned by the president, heads of Cabinet-level agencies, and members of Congress are excluded from receiving aid. That reportedly extends to firms controlled by their children, spouses, or in-laws." Mar-a-Nogo...

+ Meanwhile, states are bucking the president's Easter resurrection plan and preparing for long lockdowns, "more than 435,000 people around the world have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But it is not mutating significantly," Prince Charles has tested positive, and "Britain's health services asked for 250,000 volunteers. 405,000 people came forward to help." Here's the latest from WaPo.


A Message From the Future

"It's as if we are in a time warp, in which we have accelerated at 1½ time speed, while everyone around us remains in the present — already the past to us — and they, blissfully, unconsciously, go about their ordinary lives, experiencing the growing news, the more urgent advisories and directives, as a vast communal experience, sharing posts and memes about cabin fever, about home-schooling, about social distancing, about how hard it all is, while we're living in our makeshift sick ward, living in what will soon be the present for more and more of them." Jessica Lustig in NYT Mag with a moving and informative piece: What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus.


Grossery Store

Here's a message I was forwarded from a local ER doc. "In a world where we are all taking care to keep 6 feet apart and the only external activity we have all week is to go to the grocery store, am I the only one that thinks it crazy that we then all stand face to face with a cashier with no mask who has done the same for every other member of our community? This is where the spread will happen." I've been wondering the same thing. So has The Atlantic's Olga Khazan: Grocery Stores Are the Coronavirus Tipping Point. (The carts have wipes, gloves and washing can reduce the touching risk, the food doesn't transmit it. It's the people.)

+ "The van he drove wasn't cleaned before or after his 10-hour shift, nor were the bins holding packages handled by warehouse workers and delivery drivers. Yet his company offered no gloves or masks, and only sporadically provided hand sanitizer ... and drivers say they have little or no time to stop and wash their hands." Delivery drivers face pandemic without sick pay, insurance, sanitizer.

+ Workers in 8 Amazon warehouses test positive for coronavirus.

+ Why is one of America's richest companies owned by America's richest person soliciting public donations to pay workers' sick leave?


Mask Backwards

Of course, by now we all understand that the challenge of providing protective equipment to grocers and delivery workers is compounded by that fact that we can't even provide it to our health workers. "This is America. It's not a developing country. This is just showing how flawed everything is." Medical Providers Are Trying to DIY Their Own Survival Protection in Secret Online Groups. And People Are Making DIY Face Masks With Hot Glue Guns in This Baltimore Warehouse.

+ Andy Slavitt: The truth is CDC could have gotten started earlier and done better but here we are.

+ While we're debating absurdist Easter proclamations, culturally sensitive names for the disease, and offensive Oval Office tweets, remember, this is the story: We could have been prepared. We should have been prepared. We are nowhere near prepared. NYT: "If the administration had reacted to the ventilator shortage in February, a private sector effort starting now might have made lifesaving equipment in mid- to late April. Now it is unlikely to be before June."

+ All that being said, reality, it turns out, means less than ever. President Trump's Job Approval Rating Up to 49%.


United We Stand, Divided We Live

Yascha Mounk has been nailing the story for a long time. So trust him when he says, This Is Just the Beginning: "When the economy tanks, the human consequences are also enormous. But the decisive objection to [the president's suggested approach] is simple: It would kill millions of Americans."

+ Smart thermometer maker Kinsa is tracking our temps. Long story short, social distancing works. And Florida numbers are not looking good.

+ Smartphone data reveal which Americans are social distancing.

+ Jair Bolsonaro throws his hat into the ring for world's worst leader. "'The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,' claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media 'fantasy' and 'trick.'"

+ But the worse political base lead is insurmountable. Politico: Anthony Fauci becomes a fringe MAGA target.


Wind Swept, Plain Scared

"Tiny towns tucked into Oregon's windswept plains and cattle ranches miles from anywhere in South Dakota might not have had a single case of the new coronavirus, but their main streets are also empty and their medical clinics overwhelmed by the worried." AP: Rural America watches pandemic erupt in cities as fear grows.

+ "In many ways, it's been a combination of the state's relative remoteness, small population, and political will that has allowed it to get out front of some other places in its pandemic response." In Montana, distance is shaping the coronavirus response.

+ Coronavirus is a Waffle House 'Index Red': Restaurant chain shutters 418 stores. "If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work."


Wal Martial Law

"After they finished their presentation, Dhillon sat back in his chair and exclaimed, 'Jesus Christ,' according to five people familiar with the investigation. 'Why aren't we talking about this as a criminal case?'" They did. But then, they didn't. ProPublica: Walmart Was Almost Charged Criminally Over Opioids. Trump Appointees Killed the Indictment.


Hangdog Day Afternoon

"It involved a series of six different movements which tested for basic strength and flexibility. Dr. Kraus eventually teamed up with Bonnie Pruden, an American mountaineer, to administer the test to schoolchildren around the United States." Revisiting the Infamous, Twisted, Now-Defunct Presidential Fitness Test. (When I was in junior high, I chose to do the timed flexhang instead of pull-ups. My hangtime was so embarrassingly brief, that the tester told me he'd put down "a half a pull-up" because that would rank me higher in the test. And yet, today I can write an entire newsletter without taking a single break.)


Feel Good Wednesday

Yesterday, NextDraft readers lit up the leaderboard in support of Help Feed the Frontline Fighting COVID-19, a program that pays struggling restaurants to feed heroic health workers. Even Jose Andres himself is on board. Let's keep it going. (Put NextDraft in the comment box to motivate fellow readers.)

+ Why the internet (probably) won't break during the coronavirus pandemic. Or why my kids (probably) won't kill me.

+ Orchestras are challenging each other to play zoomphonies.

+ Coronavirus has slashed global air pollution.

+ Photos: Music and Encouragement From Balconies Around the World.

+ Iconic album covers redesigned to showcase social distancing.


Something, Something, Something Murder (6)

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. Past chapters here. To be continued, daily...

Chapter 6: I Just Think It'll Be A Beautiful Timeline. Joe?

The issue was not Hillary. It was us.

When the first clusters appeared, the tests were abundant and the protocols to implement them were rock solid. Medical professionals had been drilled to the point of maximum efficiency and they were raring to get their swabs up some nostrils and put this motherfucker to bed.

But a test only works if people show up to take it, a sentiment more accurately expressed by @RetractableDolphinPenis2's now viral tweet --

‘Merica's gonna ‘Merica bitches

Let us move past the fact that there was already an @RetractableDolphinPenis and that numbering was now required and instead appreciate the underlying psychological construct embedded in his (of course it was a he) words --

Accurate testing relies on an individual admitting to themselves and to others that they were not feeling well at precisely the moment symptoms began to appear. Unfortunately, Americans are trained to do precisely the opposite. Our exceptionalism, our supreme awesomeness, our very ability to be best has wired our brains to deny that we are unwell because to be unwell would make us less great again. Only when we are shaking with fever, our head throbbing, our sense of smell and taste gone after days of coughing phlegm upon our loved ones and rubbing our coronasty hands over every surface within our communities do we finally relent and quietly grumble that perhaps something is rotten in Denmark, for it could never, not ever, be rotten here in the U.S. of A..

Despite Elizabeth's temporal intervention and subsequent presidential transplant, the one thing she could not avert was the outbreak itself. All she had to do was find someone who could do a better job of managing it. Imagine getting a gorilla drunk, very drunk on tequila, then placing that gorilla in an industrial washing machine for an hour as the spin cycle made the gorilla dizzier and angrier… then imagine removing the gorilla from the washing machine, soaked and confused and aggressively desiring to eat someone's face off or rip their arms from their sockets, but denying the gorilla such vengeance and instead dressing it in a suit and tie and placing it in the White House press room to field questions from the media. Is there any doubt that gorilla would do a better job than him? Would the outraged wet gorilla say this would all be over by fucking EASTER?!?

It would not.

As much as Elizabeth fantasized about the gorilla scenario just to make her point, she knew it would be hard to pull off for a variety of reasons, the least of which was most gorillas are dead by age 35 and therefore constitutionally ineligible to be elected to the presidency. Fortunately, there was a much better option.

And Hillary did not disappoint. She did not dissolve the government bureaus required to deal with potential pandemics. She listened to scientists. Most of all, she was qualified. Was she able to advance any meaningful legislation in her first term? Of course not. The House and Senate were controlled by the opposition and only became more red after the midterms. Getting Garland through had been a streetfight and the rumors of Kennedy's retirement had yet to yield fruit, even as Congress had dogged her entire presidency with impeachment inquiries (Fucking Steele Dossier!) and was on the verge of going for the jugular when the virus finally hit.

This, of course, is all that mattered in the end. A competent, able Commander-in-Chief to deal with the greatest global crisis since The Nazis stormed across Europe.

But when Hillary told us it would get bad, we did not listen.

When she told us to stay home, we did not listen.

So she turned off our internet, for that is what any parent does when their children do not listen.

"I am taking away your screen time," The President calmly intoned from behind her desk in The Oval, broadcast (not streaming) simultaneously into every home in America, "And you won't get it back until you show me you can be responsible."

Her one eye gleamed with strength and confidence and just a little bit of pity.

In Bel Air, California, sitting before the widescreen television airing the simulcast, young Alden Rosenberg decided in that very moment he would need to travel back in time and make sure this never, ever happened.

He did not know that Elizabeth, sitting not two feet behind him had already given the time/space continuum the mother of all tittie twisters. He did not know that the existence he was now experiencing was a quantum rewrite. For him, Hillary Rodham Clinton had always been the 45th President of the United States.

But that could be changed. Oh yes, it could absolutely be changed. And once it was, of this Alden was absolutely sure --

President Donald J. Trump would never take his screen time away.

To be continued...