Friday, June 5th, 2020


America Remastered

Between protests spilling into the streets across all fifty states and a global pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, ripping back the veil on the country's countless inequalities, 2020 has established itself as a year that will long be taught in History and Political Science classes. This might feel like a remixed version of 1968, but there are many differences. The excellent George Packer reflects on the major ones—that start at the top. "The difference between 1968 and 2020 is the difference between a society that failed to solve its biggest problem and a society that no longer has the means to try. A year before his death, King, still insisting on nonviolent resistance, called riots 'the language of the unheard.' The phrase implies that someone could be made to hear, and possibly answer. What's happening today doesn't feel the same. The protesters aren't speaking to leaders who might listen, or to a power structure that might yield, except perhaps the structure of white power, which is too vast and diffuse to respond. Congress isn't preparing a bill to address root causes; Congress no longer even tries to solve problems. No president, least of all this one, could assemble a commission of respected figures from different sectors and parties to study the problem of police brutality and produce a best-selling report with a consensus for fundamental change. A responsible establishment doesn't exist. Our president is one of the rioters." The Atlantic: Shouting Into the Institutional Void.

+ On the night after MLK was killed, President Johnson addressed the nation: "It is the fiber and the fabric of the republic that's being tested. If we are to have the America that we mean to have, all men of all races, all regions, all religions must stand their ground to deny violence its victory in this sorrowful time, and in all times to come. Last evening, after receiving the terrible news of Dr. King's death, my heart went out to his family and to his people, especially to the young Americans who I know must sometimes wonder if they are to be denied a fullness of life because of the color of their skin." Here's Trump today, on George Floyd: "Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing happening for our country. A great day for him, a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great day in terms of equality."


Working It

In a welcome glimmer of good news, the jobs report surprised on the upside: "The U.S economy rebounded with surprising strength last month as businesses began to reopen from the coronavirus lockdown. U.S. employers added 2.5 million jobs in May, and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%." (Did you ever think you'd see the phrase, the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%?)

+ Wired: The numbers indicate "that the crush of economic devastation from the pandemic might be easing, even as the numbers remain so monstrously large that they're hard to grasp. So far, we've seen a group larger than the entire population of California lose their jobs since March. As the pandemic coverage is swept aside by protests over police brutality and systemic racism, one calculation holds that half of all black adults are now jobless." A Better Jobs Report Belies America's Breadlines.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: NextDraft's fearless proofer RD has been a swimmer since we were growing up a few blocks from each other, and he's been spending the quarantine swimming, sans-wetsuit, in the San Francisco Bay (shrinkage be damned). He enters my lane by bringing us this week's book selection, that's earning rave reviews across the board... With summer approaching and the news mostly still awful, it's a perfect time to dive into Bonnie Tsui's Why We Swim. From pool to lake to open ocean, the author weaves her own aquatic love story with tales of healing, survival, and triumph in this wonderfully written H2Ode.

+ What to Show: The show "Dave" centers on a neurotic man in his late 20s who has convinced himself that he's destined to be one of the best rappers of all time. In the first episode, Dave (Rap name: Little Dicky) calls his parents to explain that he's tapping into his bar mitzvah money to pay a rapper for a few lines. This was made for me. (Even though the story is about a guy in his 20s, the material is really not appropriate for children under 30.)

+ What to Hear: It's always the right time to listen to a new album from Run the Jewels. But after Killer Mike's impromptu speech in Atlanta, this is an imperative time to do so. Run the Jewels 4 is out.


Meanwhile, Back at the Pandemic

"Globally, known cases of the virus are growing faster than ever with more than 100,000 new ones a day. The surge is concentrated in densely populated, low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia. Not only has it filled hospitals and cemeteries there, it has frustrated the hopes of leaders who thought they were doing everything right, or who believed they might somehow escape the pandemic's worst ravages." NYT: Coronavirus Rips Into Regions Previously Spared.

+ That's true internationally, and in the US. Coronavirus cases are climbing again in the South and the West. Will crowded protests spark bigger outbreaks?

+ NYC hits hopeful milestone: Zero confirmed coronavirus deaths for first day since March.

+ Vox: Why Georgia's reopening hasn't led to a surge in coronavirus cases (so far).


Stay Symptomatic

"They ask if she's improving, in expectation that the answer is yes. When the answer is instead a list of ever-changing symptoms, they stop asking. Others pivot to disbelief. 'I've had messages saying this is all in your head, or it's anxiety,'" Between death and recovery numbers, the people who get sick and stay sick are getting lost in the story. (And their story will sound all-too familiar to anyone who has suffered a chronic condition.) Ed Yong in The Atlantic: COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months.



At times, over the past ten days, it seemed impossible to keep up with incidents of riot police behaving poorly, or outright violently, in response to peaceful protests. Greg Doucette has been tracking these moments on Twitter. Loosen up your fingers. You're gonna be scrolling for awhile.

+ There was one moment in particular that took my breath away.

+ In addition to protesters, journalists have been the victims of unwarranted attacks and arrests. (Some laugh at Trump's attacks on the media. Others listen and act accordingly.)

+ Meanwhile, the disaster Rand Paul, even at this moment in history, is preventing Senate passage of a law against ... lynching. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker were not pleased. (There are some days when I feel fortunate to call both of these leaders my friends. Just kidding, I feel that way every day.)


From Atrophy to Catastrophe

WaPo's David Ignatius: Why Mattis and Mullen toppled their bridge of silence. "The break was a decisive moment in the Trump presidency. But such inflection points are mysterious. Why does a bridge that has carried a million vehicles suddenly collapse when one more heavy load rumbles across? It's not a linear process but a sudden discontinuity. Mathematicians call it 'catastrophe theory.'" (Oh man, I miss the days when catastrophe was still just a theory.)


Reading, Writing, and Risk Management

"The plans are also just unrealistic, teachers say. They can't envision students maintaining social distance, keeping masks on, or walking in the same directions in hallways, all things health officials are recommending. Even before the pandemic, teachers said, their schools struggled to keep ample soap and water running in the bathrooms." I've been hearing this from teachers I know. Now I'm finally seeing the story. Districts and principals are coming up with plans for school in the Fall. Older teachers are saying, uh, wait a second... WaPo: Students in masks? Sick kids staying home? Teachers aren't convinced plans will keep them safe.


Pharmadelic, Man

"As magic mushrooms make the shift from recreational drug to mental health treatment, patients won't be eating caps and stems, but a synthetic product made in a lab—one that can be patented and profited from." (Uh, we've been ready for more than three years...)


Feel Good Friday

"Missouri players led a walk from campus to the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Missouri, according to coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Players and coaches kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes." Then they all registered to vote. (This is how you do it. And Missouri loves company.)

+ The Washington DC mayor has changed the name of a plaza outside the White House to Black Lives Matter Plaza.

+ I'm not getting on a plane anytime soon, but if I did, I'd go to Iceland. It's one of the best places on Earth. They've crushed the virus. And for a little over a hundred bucks, you can get a Covid test at the airport and be on your safe, merry way.

+ Every protest counts. Even when there's only one person.