Wednesday, May 13th, 2020


Stop Yanking My Food Chain

In Sam Kinison's most famous bit, the late comedian joked that people starving in certain regions around the world need to "move to where the food is." During the pandemic, the biggest challenge for farmers and meat puppet masters is to move the food where the people are. "A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to 'pile it high and sell it cheap'—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19." In The New York Review of Books, Michael Pollan spoon-feeds you the facts about the American food chain's fork in the road: The Sickness in Our Food Supply. "The food system we have is not the result of the free market. (There hasn't been a free market in food since at least the Great Depression.) No, our food system is the product of agricultural and antitrust policies—political choices—that, as has suddenly become plain, stand in urgent need of reform."

+ WaPo: April saw the sharpest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years.


Money Pit Crew

How do the feds pump potentially trillions of dollars into an ailing economy? It turns out that's a better question for the Apple Genius Bar than your economics professor, because the key is pressing Command-P. USA Today: US is 'printing' money to help save the economy from the COVID-19 crisis, but some wonder how far it can go. (Probably until the cartridge runs out of ink.)


School’s Out for Bummer

"While many states have expressed a firm desire to get going in August, the California State University system announced Tuesday that almost all of its classes would be conducted remotely in the fall semester. And the University of California said it was likely none of its campuses would fully reopen in the fall either." Many people look to the reopening of schools as a key step in the return to normalcy (or for parents, sanity). So this is unwelcome news, indeed. Somber warnings temper hopes about a fall return to school -- and normalcy.

+ These moves would feel a lot less shocking if we had national guidelines. Oh wait, we do. They're just being kept from us. "On Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified before a U.S. Senate committee that the recommendations would be released 'soon.'" (But not sooner than states reopen.) AP: CDC guidance more restrictive than White House. (Who to believe? The experts who have spent a lifetime studying infectious diseases or a reality show star hopped up on disinfectant who lies every time he speaks?)

+ How do we safely and sanely re-enter the workplace? The people who have developed the best practices are health workers. The New Yorker's Atul Gawande on What they can teach us about the safest way to lift a lockdown. "Its elements are all familiar: hygiene measures, screening, distancing, and masks. Each has flaws. Skip one, and the treatment won't work. But, when taken together, and taken seriously, they shut down the virus. We need to understand these elements properly—what their strengths and limitations are—if we're going to make them work outside health care."


Unmasked Crusader

"Science is no match for tribalism in this dysfunctional country. Truth is whatever validates your prejudices, feeds your sense of grievance and fuels your antipathy toward the people you've decided are on some other side. And protective masks, God help us, are tribal totems. With soul-crushing inevitably, these common-sense precautions morphed into controversial declarations of identity. What's next? Band-Aids?" Frank Bruni in the NYT: The simple accessory of a mask tells the story of a presidency and a pandemic. (Who would have guessed that masks would reveal the true face of an administration?)

+ Fighting the virus? Meh. Let's fight imaginary criminals. "The list of purported culprits Trump has charged include two television news hosts, a comedian, at least five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department, the state of California, a broadcast television station and at least five top national security officials." Toluse Olorunnipa in WaPo: As coronavirus roils the nation, Trump reverts to tactic of accusing foes of felonies.


Guat TF?

"By the end of the month, roughly twenty per cent of the nearly seven hundred confirmed cases of covid-19 in Guatemala were people who had been deported from the U.S. 'We must not stigmatize,' Monroy said. 'But I have to speak clearly. The arrival of deportees who have tested positive has really increased the number of cases.' The United States, he added, had become 'the Wuhan of the Americas.'" Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker: The Trump Administration's Deportation Policy Is Spreading the Coronavirus.


Doing Time Bomb

"There are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S. and nearly half a million prison guards working at the facilities where they are held. Collectively, this population of nearly 3 million Americans would constitute the third largest city in the country ... They are scattered across our nation without a mayor or governor watching out for them. But ignoring their plight comes at our own peril." The excellent Cristine Soto DeBerry on the lessons the pandemic is hammering home when it comes to our prison system.

+ Due to virus concerns, Paul Manafort is going to serve the rest of his term in home confinement after serving about a third of his sentence at a federal prison.


Southern Comfort

"Sixty years ago, small-town Alabama musicians, many of them sons and daughters of farmers and sharecroppers, came together in homegrown recording studios in Muscle Shoals, and proceeded to lodge their little town forever in the minds of music lovers. Today, a small Shoals record label, Single Lock, is changing minds about exactly what 'Southern music' means — and collapsing the barriers between the hometown legends of old and the music of the young." On the Shoulders of Giants.

+ If you haven't seen the documentary Muscle Shoals, do so immediately.


Please Rewind

"Now, when ... longtime general manager Sandi Harding wants to add new releases to the store's shelves, she has to go out and buy them herself." Vice: The World's Last Blockbuster Remains Open, Pandemic and Netflix Be Damned. (In the end, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and the last Blockbuster store...)


Feel Good Wednesday

"Garfield, 54, was patient zero at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, about 10 miles north of Los Angeles. He had a 1% chance of survival. And he beat the odds, leaving the hospital on Friday."

+ This Guy Got Hit By Lightning and Became a Concert Pianist. (Why does no one get hit by lightning and become a vaccine creator?)

+ "The appetite for coronavirus stats has grown so big globally that traffic to Worldometer, a statistics website run by a group of international developers, surpassed 1 billion visits in April, in line with major platforms like Reddit and ahead of LinkedIn."

+ GQ: The Best Quarantine Socks, According to a Guy Who Wrote an Entire Book on Socks. (I saw this headline and was immediately disgusted by the trite consumerism it represents. And then I ordered three of the recommended socks.)

+ Bobcats are good jumpers.


Pro Tip

"As Hollywood tries to figure out how to resume production of movies and TV shows in the coronavirus era, one sector may be better prepared than others to deal with the challenges." Reuters: Lessons from p-rn industry could help Hollywood adapt to coronavirus. (During the pandemic, many of us have been taking lessons almost every night...)

+ Reminder: The NextDraft Store is open and awesome.

+ Damon Lindelof's Something Something Something Murder story's final chapters will be here at the end of the month. In the meantime, the first 15 chapters are here.