May 14th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

This sounds crazy, but we agree. Also, there's no plan, and the rise of conspiracy theories.

Arguments often end with the phrase, We’ll just have to agree to disagree. Today, we begin with a phrase that, while more taut, seems much harder to believe in modern America: We agree. Yes, we have a president who deals in falsehoods and misinformed guesswork (his latest salvo is publicly challenging Anthony Fauci’s advice and urging schools to reopen now — forget the fact that it’s three weeks before Summer). Yes, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court stripped that state’s governor of his ability to extend stay at home orders, which led to some unfortunate bar scenes on social media. Yes, even though they’re decked out in the latest Amazon-shipped camouflage, we can’t unsee the images of over-armed, pseudo patriots taking a revolutionary stand in the name of reopening the local tattoo shop, and being remembered as the least great generation. And yes, because of the way viruses spread, those making poor decisions have an outsized impact on their communities. But, when it comes to public opinion on these matters, there is no great chasm. In fact, there have been few issues in recent memory about which Americans—across economic, educational, and geographic divides—have been more united. WaPo: By massive margins, Americans are in favor of social distancing and mask wearing.

+ Even those pretending to be opposed to safety messages are following them. That’s why Fox News extended its stay at home orders through mid-June. Yup, they’re urging viewers to get back out there from the safety of their own homes. There is no bottom.



Our general agreement regarding safety measures doesn’t imply that we don’t want to get the hell out of our houses and back into what’s left of the economy. Stay at home strategies were always intended to be temporary. You stay home (check), the curves are made more flat (check), hospitals retain the bandwidth to serve patients (check), and the federal government develops and begins to execute a detailed plan to reopen society (checked out). “The Trump administration wasted the pause. Over the past two months, the US should have built the testing, contact tracing, and quarantine infrastructure necessary to safely end lockdown and transition back to normalcy — as many of its peer countries did. Instead, Trump has substituted showmanship for action, playing the president on TV but refusing to do the actual job.” Ezra Klein: 60 days into the coronavirus crisis, the White House does not have a plan, a framework, a philosophy, or a goal.

+ “There’s no reason the wealthiest country in the world—the nation that re-built Europe, that went to the moon, that claims exceptionalism as its birthright—should have to choose between economic resilience and protecting the lives of its most vulnerable citizens. Countries that acted more quickly to curb the spread of the virus have limited the damage on both fronts.” Time: There Are Sensible Ways to Reopen a Country. Then There’s America’s Approach.


Now is the Winter of Our President

“It says to me, sir, that there is no master coordinated plan on how to respond to this outbreak.” Coronavirus whistleblower Rick Bright testifies to Congress: “Without better planning, 2020 could be darkest winter in modern history.” He added: “We have the world’s greatest scientists. Let us lead. Let us speak without fear of retribution.” (Yes, we’ve arrived at a moment in history where something like that has to be said.) Here’s the latest from CNN.

+ From a report by the Financial Times: “Jared had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it… That advice worked far more powerfully on [Trump] than what the scientists were saying.”


Intel Inside Trading

“Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington area.” FBI serves warrant on Sen. Richard Burr in stock investigation. Burr stepped down from his committee post today.


Stink Tank

WaPo: “The Aspen Institute think tank accepted more than $8 million in federal small-businesses funds despite having a $115 million endowment and a board of trustees populated by billionaires.” Well endowed organizations accepting bailout money while small businesses are in the tank is a tankless job, but someone’s got to do it.

+ Private jet company founded by Trump donor gets $27 million bailout.


Shadow Trancing

“The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.” The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance: QAnon is a harbinger of a world where reality doesn’t matter. This very interesting article is part of a collection on conspiracy theories: Welcome to Shadowland.

+ NYT: Get Ready for a Vaccine Information War. (The best way to get ready is to take the vaccine.)


Some Kind of Wonderful

“He didn’t even have to speak — all he had to do was look or gesture at us, and we’d come apart. And every time he’d apologize for it. As if he had done something wrong. As if he had somehow interfered with our work. Which only made us love him more.” Jason Alexander, in the NYT, with one of the many very nice remembrances of Jerry Stiller. Jerry Stiller Was Wonderful, Always. (Could there be a better obit headline?)


The Wire

There is a single, tiny wire encircling my house and yard. It’s to keep my beagles from escaping and making our family even more infamous in the neighborhood. That mystery has been solved. Now, Why There’s a Single, Tiny Wire Encircling Manhattan. (Before you guess, my beagles have never been to NYC.)


Feel Good Thursday

“Van den Bosch has been driving his cranes to homes in several towns across Belgium. A platform carries families to their relatives’ windows. A daughter or grandson waves, and worries vanish from faces creased by age. No internet connection does as well.” Cranes reunite families in corona crisis. (Yeah, I cherry-picked this story.)

+ Thousands of people want to be exposed to Covid-19 for science.

+ Retirees, isolated by virus, become DJs for new radio hour.

+ Locked down neighbors let loose at ‘Quaranchella’ concerts.


Brit Happens

“This was the peak of blood-rush hysteria, the last time the illusion could be sustained. Americans are gratefully duped into believing what they want to believe, and this was the last gasp of willful delusion. Nothing would ever be that innocent again.” On “Oops I did it again” as it turns 20. The Age of (Not That) Innocence.

+ 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.

Copied to Clipboard