Friday, April 3rd, 2020


The Slim Reaper

Wanted: Someone to run the most critical, complicated, and potentially deadly health crisis in more than a century ... No experience necessary. That appears to be the Craiglist's ad Jared Kushner answered this month, because by all appearances, he's now the Bug Czar. Kushner made an appearance at the administration's daily press conference slash campaign rally and started dropping knowledge. "The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use." In political theory circles, that statement is what's known as a "stockpile of shit." Why do I sound angry? Because we have willing, experienced, talented experts who could come in and take over the utterly broken federal process, and instead, we're providing on the job training to a guy who didn't succeed at his private sector jobs on the way to becoming the most important player in global health. Michelle Goldberg in the NYT: "People who'd dealt with Kushner told her that whatever he did, he 'believed he could do it better than anybody else, and he had supreme confidence in his own abilities and his own judgment even when he didn't know what he was talking about.' It's hard to overstate the extent to which this confidence is unearned." Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness. (The worst part of sheltering at home is that I left my Jared voodoo doll at the office.)

+ Actually, the worst part is the lying, and the rewarding of that lying. Jared on medical supplies: "We've done things that the government has never done before, quicker than they've ever done it before, and what we're seeing now is we found a lot of supplies in the country." Jared Kushner's coronavirus briefing debut sparks outcry, confusion.

+ How deep is the rot? Jared Kushner said the national stockpile wasn't for the states, contradicting the stockpile's website. So the government changed the website.

+ "When you are done being angry about all the crazy, nasty, inconsistent, and untrue things that Donald Trump says each day about the coronavirus and other matters, remember that the flood of words is cover for an Administration that in some ways barely exists relative to its predecessors, especially when it comes to crucial areas of domestic, economic, and international security—or even straightforward crisis management." The New Yorker: The Coronavirus Is the World's Only Superpower.

+ Why focus on the lies and ineptitude again as we face this epic challenge? Because the lies continue to be rewarded and the truth tellers (like the USS Roosevelt Commander) continue to be punished, and now it's a matter of life and death. The virus didn't break America. The virus arrived at our shores to find an America already broken. My latest: America is Sick.


No Time to Breathe

"New York City hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients, and officials fear they will soon run out of breathing machines for intensive care patients. Cuomo said his executive order will allow the state to redeploy excess ventilators and protective equipment from hospitals and other institutions." AP: Cuomo orders shift in ventilators to overwhelmed hospitals. This strategy makes sense within NY state, but it makes much more sense on the federal level. Where is the plan?

+ And please don't wait for the dilly-dallying messaging on masks to resolve. Wear a face-covering when you go out.

+ And at long last, please listen to the experts. Andy Slavitt: 20 Coronavirus Fighting Priorities the Trump Administration Should Pursue.


Weekend Whats

What to HBO: The Sopranos, Succession, Six Feet Under, The Wire ... some of the best TV shows ever are being streamed for free from HBO.

+ What to Book: We miss baseball. So let's read one of the great novels with baseball as a theme. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. For more baseball, enjoy the greatest April Fool's joke ever written, or watch Ken Burns Baseball miniseries.

+ What to Hear: "He joined the Navy at 17 and spent nine years in the service as an aircraft mechanic installing toilets. After his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles, worked at an aircraft parts factory, bought a guitar at a pawn shop and recorded demos of his tunes in hopes of landing a recording contract." Bill Withers died this week. But his voice can still lift you up. Bill Withers Live At Carnegie Hall.


Freedom Da Dum Dum

"But let's be honest, what country do we live in? It's the USA, which is freedom, freedom to choose. When we get notes from the government saying do this or do that, it feels like that's not what this country is built on. People should be smart, and you live with your choices." USA Today: 'This will blow over': In states without stay-at-home orders, Americans celebrate freedom as death toll climbs. (You know who doesn't get a kick out of freedom? Dead people.)

+ After ignoring warnings, Israeli ultra-Orthodox hit by virus.

+ For the zillionth time, avoiding others is not just about you, it's about everyone. Detroit bus driver who complained about a coughing passenger dies of coronavirus days later.

+ The places where Americans are most at risk are the places where they're not properly preparing. The Coronavirus's Unique Threat to the South.


No More Lux Left to Give

"Although people in all income groups are moving less than they did before the crisis, wealthier people are staying home the most, especially during the workweek. Not only that, but in nearly every state, they began doing so days before the poor, giving them a head start on social distancing as the virus spread." You'll hear a lot of urgent criticism of those choosing to ignore shelter warnings. But those people shouldn't be confused with the people who have no choice. (They're the same people who always have no choice...) Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury.


Getting the Picture

Times are tough. And I know I pile on the bad news. But the truth is that the most prevalent feeling I have these days is inspiration at witnessing the relentless kindness of strangers. InFocus with a photo collection of The Volunteers.

+ And the professionals are working day and night to save lives. The SF Chronicle talked to ten of them. Big guns fighting the coronavirus.


To Be Best, Be Test

There's a "serious need for us to find out who has already been infected and is now, presumably, immune to the virus (at least for a while)." The coronavirus test that might exempt you from social distancing—if you pass.

+ The UK might issue coronavirus 'immunity passports' so people can leave the lockdown early.


Domestic Animals

"People have reported that their abusers are cutting them off from hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, and showers." Vice: Coronavirus Has Given Domestic Abusers a New Arsenal of Torture.

+ The Nation: Domestic Violence and Coronavirus: Hell Behind Closed Doors.


Feel Good Friday

Yes, it's true that Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of his role after going public with the corona disaster happening on his ship. But don't think his efforts went unappreciated. "Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!': Videos show sailors sending off ousted USS Roosevelt commander with cheers. (Feel free to cheer along, I did.)

+ This Brooklyn landlord just canceled rent for hundreds of tenants.

+ Oregon veteran recovers from COVID-19, celebrates 104th birthday. Seriously, don't mess with Bill Lapschies.

+ The Getty Museum asked people to recreate paintings with stuff they can find at home, here are the results.


Something, Something, Something Murder (10)

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 Ten: Okay, I'll Fucking Watch Tiger King. Jesus.

Grease is the time. Is the place. Is the motion.

You now know several important things about time travel, but you don't know the most important thing, which is does it count?

In other words, how can you be asked to invest in a story where any character in that story can just go back and change shit at their whim? There are no stakes, no real consequences if mistakes can easily be corrected and undone.

Case in point.

Elizabeth grew up with an intense crush on John Travolta. She had first fixated on him in GREASE, sitting in the movie theater next to Kirin Pindar and Kirin's mom, Mrs. Pindar. Elizabeth's knees actually trembled when Danny first sauntered onto the screen. She was only nine years old, but that was old enough to know true love when she felt it and this was as true as it fucking got.

I will tell you more.

Decades later, working in her lab at Berkeley and encouraged by the beta testing, Elizabeth ingested a chronoceutical that was coded to transport her to Woodland Hills, California in the year 1976. Knowing the journey would only last as long as it would take for the pill to pass through her body, Elizabeth had only twelve to sixteen hours to bed her target.

Travolta was already a minor celebrity after half a season of Welcome Back Kotter and a memorable turn in Carrie, but this was before Saturday Night Fever and Grease at which point he would no longer be gettable. And so Elizabeth, then aged 36, appeared on the set of The Boy In The Plastic Bubble with perfectly feathered hair and denim separates. Travolta never stood a chance. He was the one that she wanted and the rest is history.

Except it wasn't history. It was A history. An history? Whatever. You get it.

A series of catastrophic dominoes began to tip. Diana Hyland played Travolta's mom in Bubble and despite being twenty years his senior, was engaged in a torrid romance with him. Her heart broke instantly when she walked into young John's trailer as he was hopelessly devoting himself to Elizabeth, who took a dump shortly afterwards and disappeared back to the present, which we will get to presently.

First, the past. Diana, decimated by Travolta's infidelity, broke off their relationship instantly. He begged her for forgiveness, unable to explain how he had so easily been wooed by the mysterious woman who had vanished from the bathroom in his trailer… she had known everything about him, his hopes, his dreams… she looked at him like he was a star instead of a high-school dropout from Englewood, New Jersey. She knew all the lyrics to GREASE, which he had done on stage in New York but nobody knew that really, except she did, and when she whispered "Tell me about it, stud." gently into his ear, then bit it, just a little too hard, he was hers for the taking and take him she did, but now she was gone (seriously, did she climb out the window in there?) and he so desperately wanted Diana to take him back but it was too late.

And then Bubble wrapped (sorry) and a few months later, Diana Hyland was dead of breast cancer. Travolta never recovered, irrationally equating his infidelity with the tragedy of Diana's untimely death. He retired from acting and eventually ended up with a severe drinking problem and a lifetime of teaching ballroom dancing in Sherman Oaks.

As such, Grease was still made, but with other stars (Richard Gere edged out Barry Bostwick for Danny, Susan Dey played Sandy) and the world moved on from 1978 with only one significant alteration, that being it was Travolta-less. So imagine Elizabeth's surprise when she rematerialized in the present to find BERKELEY OVERRUN BY CANNIBAL MUTANTS RIDING MOTORCYCLES PLAYING GUITARS THAT SPEWED TOWERS OF FIRE AS IF FROM THE BOWELS OF HELL ITSELF!!!!

Just kidding. But Al Gore was president and that was almost as bad.

Do you need to know how a lack of Travolta led to Gore's legal victory in Florida? You do not. Because it never happened. Or to be more accurate, it unhappened.

Elizabeth was the only human alive who remembered the previous reality, so it was incumbent upon her to simply code a new pill to go back six hours before the previous journey and intercept herself before she could bone Travolta. Which is exactly what she did. And when both Elizabeths took their respective dumps, they reappeared in the present exactly as they had left it, with George W. Bush as president and an absolute shitshow in Iraq. Travolta was once again an International celebrity in spite of Wild Hogs… and of course he had no memory whatsoever of his summer night with Elizabeth because she had erased it.

So does it count?

Why should you care about any of this if it was undone and negated and retconned?

Well… here's one reason. When she returned to the present to find all was as she had left it, three weeks later she began to feel queasy and nauseated and even though she was confused by the paradoxical implications, she could not ignore the inevitable revelation that she was not Sandy at all, but Rizzo…

Because Elizabeth Rosenberg was pregnant.

To Be Continued...

+ This would be a good time to Draft Some New Readers.