Tuesday, May 5th, 2020


Dazed and Confused

The curve is not sufficiently flattened and few regions have met their own criteria for opening up. And yet, opening up they are. The market seems jubilant. Politicians seem pretty confident. And the experts seem confused by the disconnect. I suppose that makes me an expert. Consider these three headlines: WaPo: Trump cheers on governors even as they ignore White House coronavirus guidelines in race to reopen. NYT: Models Project Sharp Rise in Deaths as States Reopen. Politico: Trump and governors shrug off White House guidance. So we're opening even though we shouldn't open and most people don't want to open; the White House is shrugging off the advice from the White House; and while every model shows us headed for a storm, the administration is winding down its coronavirus task force. Steve Bannon once argued that the way to defeat the media is to "flood the zone with shit." I suppose that makes me Roto Rooter, but even I can't make sense of this tsunami of sewage. In a recent study in San Francisco's Mission District, 90% of the people who tested positive have been leaving their homes for work. So that makes now a good time to send people back to work? Of course, there are many variables and I wouldn't want to be responsible for making these choices. But it would be nice to have a hint of an idea of why we're making (or failing to make) various decisions. If there's a bright spot to this confusing overload of information it's that—if recent history is any indicator—there won't be a test.


Vital Signs

Frontline workers don't have time to decipher the confusing contradictions coming from various sources. They have a job to do. And some, like Tanisha Brunson-Malone, a forensic technician at a New Jersey hospital, have taken it upon themselves to do even more. We can't lose sight of the human story, or the vital humanity found in simple, powerful gestures happening all around us. NYT: The Morgue Worker, the Body Bags and the Daffodils. "Inside each trailer are bodies in body bags, stacked on shelves three high, coronavirus victims awaiting pickup. Ms. Brunson-Malone enters each trailer and walks the aisle between the rows, pausing at each new body bag. There, she carefully places a flower on top."


A Mensch at 96

It's my dad's 96th birthday today. As a teen in Holocaust-ravaged Europe, he crawled on his hands and knees into the Polish forest in the middle of winter, where he survived, alone, for months before joining the Partisans, fighting the Nazis, and eventually getting on a boat to America, where he arrived—having lost his entire family—with no English, and almost no money. By the time I showed up, he had built himself into one of Northern California's most successful real estate developers. For our purposes, it's worth noting that everything I know about consuming and analyzing politics and world events comes from him. Even with all of his trials and triumphs, he still ranks getting on our family Zoom call this morning as one of his greatest challenges. He's my hero. He'll be yours too if you read his amazing story. Taking Risks: A Jewish Youth in the Soviet Partisans and His Unlikely Life in California.


100 Years of Science, Dude

"In the years between two lethal pandemics, one the misnamed Spanish flu, the other COVID-19, the world learned about viruses, cured various diseases, made effective vaccines, developed instant communications and created elaborate public-health networks. Yet here we are again, face-masked to the max. And still unable to crush an insidious yet avoidable infectious disease before hundreds of thousands die from it." AP: Virus-afflicted 2020 looks like 1918 despite science's march.

+ The doctor who battled the 1918 influenza pandemic is a lot like Dr. Fauci. (Aside from having to deal with Trump and wanting Brad Pitt to play him on SNL...)


(Not) Everybody Hurts

WaPo: "While thousands of their workers are filing for unemployment benefits, these companies rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends. They are not alone. As the pandemic squeezes big companies, executives are making decisions about who will bear the brunt of the sacrifices, and in at least some cases, workers have been the first to lose, even as shareholders continue to collect."


Square Space

"Nearly 1 in 5 Wendy's restaurants were sold out of beef products, including hamburgers, on Monday night as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts the meat supply." This gives new meaning to the old Where's the Beef commercials.

+ The coming meat shortage must be weighed against the risk to workers. Smithfield Foods employee: "Essential worker just means you're on the death track."



"I've come close to dying a few times, and I'm not afraid anymore, just sad. I'm like a war correspondent or an assassin—all I need is the call, and I'll be gone in the night. I wish I had something helpful to say, now, about fear; for a long time, I was so terrified that I could hardly breathe. Somehow, you get used to it. But if I die from the coronavirus, it will be one more unnecessary American death. Every epidemiologist in the world warned us the pandemic was coming, yet we were totally unprepared. And even after governors and public-health experts performed the astonishing feat of getting huge numbers of Americans to stay home, Trump continued to undermine them." Caitlin Flanagan: My mantra used to be "Stage IV cancer! Could it get any worse?" Then it got worse.


Exercise Caution

WaPo: "For the first time in seven weeks, millions in Spain — one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus — ventured outdoors this weekend as the government gingerly eased Europe's strictest nationwide lockdown. But there were rules — and plenty of them." (My dream scenario is that we find a vaccine and move past this pandemic, but that Governor Newsom still finds some reason to order me not to exercise.)


Feel Good Tuesday

"The Jewish Agency for Israel and its subsidiary, Amigour, facilitated a unique way for loved ones to visit their older relatives in one of its shelter home facilities: by crane."

+ Some Good News with John Krasinski: SGN Graduation with Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jon Stewart, and Malala.

+ 11-year-old girl writes thank you letter to mail carrier, gets dozens from USPS workers in return.

+ Alabama police search for aggressive chicken attacking people at ATMs.

+ A 5-Year-Old Boy Was Pulled Over While Trying To Drive To California To Buy A Lamborghini. (You gotta give the parents some credit. At this point in the quarantine, if one of your kids drove off in the car, would you even call the police?)


The Giving We

It's Giving Tuesday. And the non-profits that provide the backbone to our communities have never needed us more. Please support my efforts to get some much needed dollars to 826 Valencia. They serve the kids who are struggling even more because of this pandemic, and being a board member and a fan, I can vouch for the fact that they do it extremely well.

+ If this pandemic teaches us anything, it's that real news saves lives. And the amazing, award-winning journalists at the Center For Investigative Reporting have been proving that adage for a long time. Their stories change lives and laws. Real news is under attack. Give the Center For Investigative Reporting the tools to fight back. My wife is on the board. I'm an advisor. Trust us, these are the folks we need right now.