Wednesday, April 1st, 2020


After Shock

"In bad times, innovation can occur in habits of mind as well as in new technologies. The frightening COVID-19 pandemic may be creating such a change now—by forcing many of us to slow down, to spend more time in personal reflection, away from the noise and heave of the world. With more quiet time, more privacy, more stillness, we have an opportunity to think about who we are, as individuals and as a society." Alan Lightman on what might be gained amid all the loss. In rebuilding a broken world, we will have the chance to choose a less hurried life. "Now we have been struck. We have a chance to notice: We have been living too fast. We have sold our inner selves to the devil of speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, progress." (My inner self might be improving, but my outer self has gained about 12 pounds...)

+ "Past public health crises inspired innovations in infrastructure, education, fundraising and civic debate." Smithsonian Mag: How Epidemics of the Past Changed the Way Americans Lived.


Ship Reckoning

"This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors." In one of the more striking pandemic stories, an aircraft carrier captain gets Navy's help after plea. Even with help, it's an impossibly complicated problem. Ray Mabus, the former Sec of the Navy, on just how necessary, and complex, this job is.

+ Coast Guard: Cruise ships must stay at sea with sick onboard.


Heed the Word

"First, we need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down ... Second, the federal government needs to step up on testing ... Finally, we need a data-based approach to developing treatments and a vaccine ... We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made. Because many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment, we'll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won't get used." Bill Gates in WaPo: Bill Gates: Here's how to make up for lost time on covid-19.

+ Leaders should have listened to Bill Gates over the years when he warned a pandemic was the world's greatest threat. Here's a talk from 2015: The next outbreak? We're not ready. "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we've invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we've actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We're not ready for the next epidemic." (Somehow, I don't think anyone wants to step up to the mic to share an opposing view...)


The Don of a New Age

"President Donald Trump tried Tuesday to cast himself as the wise leader who rejected the advice of a "group" of people who had portrayed the coronavirus as a mere flu and had argued that life should go on as normal. He did not mention that he had been the most powerful member of that group." As the president, at long last, and at least for now, came to terms with America's horrific death projections, some pundits were ready to turn him into Abe Lincoln. Daniel Dale has been realtime factchecking Trump for years. He does the same for Trump's attempt to erase his previous coronavirus response.

+ Gabe Sherman: Poll numbers—and a friend in a coma—pushed Trump to reverse course.

+ Of course, it's not just about reversing course in terms of messaging and accepting reality. That delay delayed everything else. The administration needs to reverse course when it comes to executing a plan. Some examples. NPR: FEMA Hadn't Ordered Ventilators. Manufacturers Forged Ahead Anyway. CNN: Pentagon says it still hasn't sent ventilators because it hasn't been told where to send them. And Politico: "Last week, a Trump administration official working to secure much-needed protective gear for doctors and nurses in the United States had a startling encounter with counterparts in Thailand. The official asked the Thais for help—only to be informed by the puzzled voices on the other side of the line that a U.S. shipment of the same supplies, the second of two so far, was already on its way to Bangkok."

+ The latest White House projections finally convinced Florida's Ron DeSantis to order a statewide shutdown. Wall Street is seeing the same reality we are. Governors beg for more supplies. And before you get too used to the new Trump, know this: He just rejected an Obamacare special enrollment period amid the pandemic. Here's the latest from the NYT.

+ The numbers that scared the non-believers into reality are available here.


Mother’s Daze

"It turns out, executives at Fox News HQ were more reasonable behind the scenes. The offices were Lysol-ed and sanitized and employees were given instructions to be safe. All while the network was doing quite the opposite: spraying viewers with far too much fake news contagion." Kara Swisher on Fox's Fake News Contagion, which, until recently, her mom was believing. (And her mom's other kid is a doctor...)

+ Fox News is a clear villain in this story, but no one holds a candle to Brazil's epically terrible president, Jair Bolsonaro: "God is Brazilian," he told a throng of supporters. "The cure is right there."

+ While those who are late will be condemned by history, those who were early will be celebrated. Cuomo Is a Coronavirus Star, but Newsom Is Quietly Bending the Curve. And then there's Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, The US governor who saw it coming early. "Mr DeWine moved to bar spectators from major sporting events - days before US professional leagues decided to cancel their seasons. He was first in the nation to declare a state-wide school shutdown. He invoked an emergency public health order to postpone Ohio's presidential primary the night before it was scheduled."


Georgia Reach

"It was an old-fashioned Southern funeral. There was a repast table crammed with casseroles, Brunswick stew, fried chicken and key lime cake. Andrew Jerome Mitchell, a retired janitor, was one of 10 siblings. They told stories, debated for the umpteenth time how he got the nickname Doorface." NYT: Days After a Funeral in a Georgia Town, Coronavirus ‘Hit Like a Bomb.'


Zero Sum Bitches

While you and your neighbors are raising money to feed health workers and sewing masks to protect them, "Alteon Health, backed by private-equity firms Frazier Healthcare Partners and New Mountain Capital, will cut salaries, time off and retirement benefits for providers, citing lost revenue. Several hospital operators announced similar cuts." In times of crisis, people and organizations become more of what they truly are...


Let’s Put This Issue to Bed

"When you love two people, in a time like this, you just have to make the call." The Guardian: Polyamory in a pandemic: who do you quarantine with when you're not monogamous? (We're gonna cover every angle of this story, folks.)

+ Bloomberg: China's Divorce Spike Is a Warning to Rest of Locked-Down World.


Feel Good Wednesday

"The newspaper also has birdhouse building instructions, a recipe for banana bread and at least one data journalist on staff —14-year-old Griffin Morgan, who documented the takeout status and hours of every restaurant on Cortland Avenue." This kid-staffed SF newspaper is the coronavirus break we needed.

+ Love knows no borders for elderly couple.

+ In Search of Zambia's Stunning Wildlife: A Virtual Safari. (This is like The Tiger King without all the nasty-ass humans.)

+ "New, cheaper devices, a growing concern about the environmental disaster that is conventional TP, and, perhaps, a pandemic, may be the bidet's breakthrough moment."

+ A Change in Lesson Plans: Homeschooling in a Pandemic.


Something, Something, Something Murder 9

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.

Chapter 9: Am I a Traitor If I Believe Pillow Guy's Heart Is In The Right Place?

Kenny Loggins was making a woodchuck.

More precisely, he was carving a woodchuck from a block of wood, wallowing in the sheer delight of the meta-ness of it all. Kenny Loggins had always loved woodland creatures; Chipmunks, beavers, squirrels, they were all delightful… but the woodchuck was by far his favorite and he was well on his way to immortalizing one.

Kenny Loggins also loved wood. Wood was his namesake. When he was little, the other kids would say, "Hey, Kenny Loggins! You like looooggggggs?" And he would stay silent, understanding the question was rhetorical. But he did like logs. He liked them a lot.

Kenny Loggins was not a professional carver, but he was no hobbyist either. The same dexterity he used when he played guitar was applied to each stroke of his knife as he carefully created the orbs that would become the eyes of his woodchuck, the very windows to its soul.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Kenny Loggins knew the question was preposterous. Woodchucks were vegetarians and did not gnaw on wood, let along chuck it. He would reflect the frustration of constantly being asked this question by etching it into the furrowed brow of his subject, angling his knife deeper…

And suddenly there was a woman standing in the room with him.

"AGHR!" shouted Kenny Loggins as the knife slipped from the block and across the tendon of his thumb, a spurt of hot blood geysering into the air.

The woman held up her hands – "I'm alright!" she said calmly, as if she had not just materialized from nowhere.

But Kenny Loggins was surprised and wounded and confused – the door to his studio was locked. Who was this woman in glasses and a lab coat, her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail? And how the hell did she get in here?

"Easy, Kenny Loggins!" she said. "I'm alright."

But he wasn't alright. The blood was still gushing and fuck, FUCK, he and Messina were already barely speaking and JESUS, how was he expected to go on tour and play guitar without his goddamned thumb?!?

The woman giggled now. Kenny Loggins could not explain why, but he could not shake the feeling that she had just successfully conducted an experiment of some kind. Well maybe he could explain why. It was the labcoat. And the clipboard.

"Is this 1977?" the woman asked.

"Huh…?" said Kenny Loggins.

"The year… Is this 1977?" said the woman.

"Yes." said Kenny Loggins.

The woman giggled again. Then looked at the half-carved woodchuck and furrowed her brow.

"You haven't done Caddyshack yet." she said.

"Wha?" said Kenny Loggins.

"That gopher. If it's '77, you haven't done Caddyshack yet." said the woman.

Kenny Loggins was confused. "It's… not a gopher. It's a woodchuck."

"Ohhhhhh." said the woman, "Gotcha."

And with that, she gave him a thumbs up, once again repeated, "I'm alright." then abruptly shoved two of her own fingers down the back of her throat and vomited all over the floor of Kenny Loggins' art studio.

"…. The fuck?" said Kenny Loggins.

But Elizabeth Rosenberg was already disappearing into thin air, heading back from whence she came.

To be continued...