Wednesday, April 8th, 2020


Suffrage Against the Machine

"Wisconsin, get out and vote NOW!" The all-caps give away the source of that enthusiastic message from Tuesday morning. But he wasn't working alone in pushing the bright idea of sending people into the eye of the germ storm. There are many things about this era that we'll be wholly unable to explain. But few things will prove more confounding than the full-on abomination of lining people up at overcrowded polling places in the middle of a pandemic; a move that symbolizes so much of what dominates this moment: cruelty, stupidity, racism, wanton lies (this time about the lack of effectiveness of mail-in voting), voter suppression, disregard for others, and jaw dropping wrongness. Why would anyone believe in institutions that make such horrendous decisions? I hope time will prove false this headline from The Guardian. But it's hard to imagine it will. Wisconsin decided to allow people to vote this week. People will die as a result. "The decision is mind-boggling. It gets even worse: on Tuesday, the entire city of Milwaukee had just five polling places, down from the usual 180. Officials were reportedly preparing for as many as 10,000 people at each one."

+ Sadly, this story has another element this era is known for: Winning at any cost. And that attitude will make who gets to vote and how districts are gerrymandered the core issues of the 2020 presidential election. The November race is at the heart of the reason why people were lined up in the rain yesterday, and why they could be lined up at the ER in a few weeks. NYT: Why Wisconsin Republicans Insisted on an Election in a Pandemic.

+ Meanwhile, that November race is now set as Biden v Trump. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.


Rural Landscape

"Rural nurses and doctors, scarce in normal times, are already calling out sick and being quarantined. Clinics are scrambling to find couriers who can speed their coronavirus tests to labs hundreds of miles away. The loss of 120 rural hospitals over the past decade has left many towns defenseless, and more hospitals are closing even as the pandemic spreads." Coronavirus Was Slow to Spread to Rural America. Not Anymore.


The Uncounted

As NYC leaders hope the crisis has hit a plateau, we're only beginning to understand the toll of the virus. Some key reporting from Gothamist got the city to start counting virus victims who never made it to hospitals. The hospital deaths "failed to include many of the cases in which first responders encountered someone who had already died at home or other non-hospital settings. That happened 280 times on Monday, according to data from the Fire Department ... a staggering increase over the average 25 home deaths the city usually saw on any given day ... Over the last two weeks, FDNY officials said 2,192 New York City residents died in their homes, compared to 453 during the same time period last year."

+ "The transit agency may have deepened its work force crisis by not doing more during the early stages of the outbreak to protect its employees and delaying some steps laid out in a plan the M.T.A. had developed for dealing with a pandemic." 41 Transit Workers Dead: Crisis Takes Staggering Toll on Subways.

+ The NYC transit workers have experienced the most loss, but in a lot of places, public transit itself is experiencing a death spiral.

+ Speaking of essential workers, "major supermarket chains are beginning to report their first coronavirus-related employee deaths, leading to store closures and increasing anxiety among grocery workers as the pandemic intensifies across the country." (People described as essential should be treated and paid in a way that reflects that description.)


Health Nuts

When you stand on your balcony or in your backyard cheering for health workers, make sure you cheer loud enough to be heard across the world. In many places, adulation for doctors and nurses is in short supply. "In some cities, health-care workers are earning standing ovations for the long, life-risking hours they're putting in to battle the coronavirus. But in others, they're facing discrimination and even attacks. In Mexico, Colombia, India, the Philippines, Australia and other countries, people terrified by the highly infectious virus are lashing out at medical professionals — kicking them off buses, evicting them from apartments, even dousing them with water mixed with chlorine." WaPo: As coronavirus fears grow, doctors and nurses face abuse, attacks.


Bar Mitzvahs?

Throughout America, officials have been working to reduce populations in jails and prisons to avoid allowing them to become viral hotbeds. "In Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner advocated for police officers to reduce in arrests for low-level arrests, and his counterparts in San Francisco urged the same." Once the pandemic lifts, we'll be left with some important data about who really poses a threat to society and who doesn't. MoJo: We Put Too Many People Behind Bars.

+ There's an added bonus for freeing certain prisoners. Martin Shkreli wants out for three months so he can cure the coronavirus.


Crew Cut

For those following the story of the removal of the captain of the aircraft carrier and the subsequent speech given by his boss, we have an update. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has resigned in disgrace after calling the captain stupid. He will be replaced by Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson, who has "served only just under two weeks as the Army's No. 2 civilian." If he doesn't work out, whoever is still left in the Navy will be the Secretary of the Navy. (Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly list his job, but he's not walking away empty handed. He and the guest of his choice will soon be enjoying a 14 day excursion courtesy of Carnival Cruises!)

+ "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here ... And isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama." Hey, everyone, meet the new White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.


Prine Time

Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery / Make me a poster of an old rodeo / Just give me one thing that I can hold on to / To believe in this living is just a hard way to go. When the living is so hard for so many, we still find solace in the angels whose art sets us free. John Prine, Who Chronicled the Human Condition in Song, Dies at 73 from coronavirus.

+ John Prine: When I Get To Heaven.


I Suppose G Mail Doesn’t Exist Either?

Breaking news from Cosmopolitan: "So here's the thing: you believe a total lie about your own body. And we're...partly to blame. We're sorry. And we want you to know: The G-spot doesn't exist." (Hey, I'm gonna be stuck in the house for at least a few more weeks, so forgive me if I keep on looking...)


Feel Good Wednesday

Proving this administration can get everything wrong, the State Department just wished "everyone a happy and healthy Passover! In Jewish tradition, Matzah, a flat unleavened bread eaten during the Passover holiday, is known as both the bread of faith and the bread of healing." According to the Haggadah, Matzah is the bread of affliction. According to family lore, it's the bread of constipation. The bread of healing? Not so much. (This year, I'm hiding afikomen in the truth, that way Trump will never find it...)

+ McSweeney's: An Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci Asking for Passover Seder Advice.

+ For those families hitting the wall of self-quarantine, this might be a helpful video: What Actually Happens When a Tranquilizer Dart Hits You?

+ Lady Gaga has already raised tens of millions for covid relief and is planning a huge benefit concert. She also dropped some knowledge during an interview with Jimmy Fallon. "While I think the sentiment is nice, I also think that the fight that I'm in — or that you're in, right? — is very different than the fight of a woman that is in, perhaps, an abusive relationship and has a child and lost her job and can't feed her kid and can't feed herself and also can't get the help that she needs because she's in a violent situation."

+ 16-Year-Old Pilot Flies Much-Needed Medical Supplies to Rural Hospitals Amid Pandemic.

+ Jack Dorsey pledged 28% of his wealth to support the fight against covid19 and other causes. (I was so moved by his gesture that I pledged another 28% of Jack Dorsey's wealth to the cause.)


Something, Something, Something Murder 11

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. The first 10 chapters are here.

Chapter Eleven: Now That I'm Wearing a Mask, I Would Like My Superhero Name to Be "Anxiety Man."

At long last, the pandas were fucking.

It was impossible to tell where Ying Ying ended and Le Le began, the two were a tumble of white and black fur, of husky growls and sharp-toothed bites. They had shared the enclosure in The Hong Kong Zoo for thirteen years and nothing had happened… but all along, the tension was building. They were the Jim and Pam of Pandas and the time for flirtation was over. The wistful looks over stalks of bamboo and inside jokes were but a decade of foreplay inevitably leading to this, its literal climax as Ying Ying issued a plaintive sigh, Le Le dismounting and collapsing beside her, finally, after all this time, laid laid.

Why now? Why after thirteen years had the two pandas chosen this precise moment in time to consummate their passions?

The answer, unfortunately, was the virus. The zoo had been shuttered for almost a month. No tourists. No children. No cameras. No screaming and crying and laughing and pointing. It was the pointing most of all that had destroyed Ying Ying and Le Le's respective libidos and now that there was no one to point, their panda loins were hot and hard and wet. The zookeepers took photos and videos and put them on the internet and in no time there were memes of Le Le thrusting himself into Ying Ying emblazoned with block text that read "WHAT'S BLACK AND WHITE AND BRED ALL OVER?" or "PANDA-EMIC!"

A month later, Ying Ying was pregnant and five months after that, she gave birth to Chuang Chuang, a beautiful male that would grow up to be so virile that he would singlehandedly impregnate every viable female giant panda currently in captivity many times over. By 2030, the giant panda population would quadruple and like Genghis Khan and Frazier The Lion before him, Chuang Chuang would become legend, but not just legend, a savior. Decades would pass, then centuries… and all because of Chuang Chuang, this single super-spreader of panda seed, his kind was no longer endangered.

But there would be no Chuang Chuang without Ying Ying and Le Le fucking.

And there would be no Ying Ying and Le Le fucking without the virus.

This is what Elizabeth Rosenberg was considering as she sat in bed, furiously scribbling in her spiral notebook. Cause and effect. Intent and consequence. Pandas saved and pandas extinct.

"Holy shit, you've gotta see this!"

Elizabeth looked up to see George excitedly turning his laptop towards her. He was watching a(nother) Zoom video on YouTube, sixteen Brady Bunch boxes of identically clad men and women, all wearing… Jesus Christ, it couldn't be…?
"… Pandas?"

"What? No…" said George, as if she'd said something ridiculous, "They're penguins! And they're all British celebrities!"

George was an anglophile. His parents had named him after King George the Sixth ("The Stuttering One!") because they were also anglophiles. When George first brought her home for Thanksgiving, his folks had just about shit themselves with sheer joy when they learned she did not go by Liz or Lizzie or Beth but only Elizabeth and this particular affection would all be just positively delightful if not for the fact that years later, George's mother's heart literally exploded the moment she heard that The Crown was going to be on Netflix. Elizabeth had considered going back and preventing the show's creation, but George's mom was kind of a dip and The Crown was fucking amazing, so, y'know, probably best to just let that one be.

In spite of his mother's untimely death, George still loved all things Britannia and was rattling off the famous people as he pointed them out on his laptop screen, sheltered in their own homes and inexplicably clad in Penguin onesies… "Oooh, there's John Cleese and Gordon Ramsay and Adele and wow, Emmas Thompson and Watson and.. whoa, holy shit … Cumberbatch!"

Now George was explaining how all the Celebrities had been goaded by Graham Norton to dress as penguins and when Elizabeth asked him why penguins, George told her that the paradox of a people whose very nature was to maintain a stiff upper lip being so inexplicably silly was what made it so very British.

"Don't talk to me about paradoxes." sighed Elizabeth.

And why did she sigh?

Because she knew after forty-seven trips back there were still problems that needed solving.

Hillary was president and the pandas were fucking, but British celebrities were raising money for the NHS because Idris Elba was gone, and a world without Idris Elba was not a world that Elizabeth wanted to live in. So she scribbled in her notebook and prepared for trip number forty-eight, completely oblivious to the fact that her son Alden was hiding under the bed, waiting for his parents to go to sleep.

Waiting to get his hands on that notebook.

Waiting to put this shit right.

To be continued...