Wednesday, June 24th, 2020


In Pod We Trust

"In order to slow the spread of illness, local YMCAs grouped 'pods' of no more than nine children with each adult. Heidi Brasher of the YMCA of the USA says this often meant using spaces such as basketball courts or even boardrooms, taking advantage of buildings that were otherwise closed." Was it the pods? Was it the hand washing? Was it the age of the participants? Whatever it was, there's much to be learned from the groups like the YMCA, where childcare has been in place for months, where they came up with their own safety models instead of waiting for the CDC, and where transmission has been remarkably low. NPR: What Parents Can Learn From Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns. (At a national level, we've had too little YMCA, and too much Macho Man.)

+ Joseph G. Allen, a Harvard assistant professor of exposure assessment science in WaPo: "When people ask me whether schools are safe during the coronavirus pandemic, I ask the same question: Would I let my kids go back to school in the fall? The answer is yes."

+ These and all reopening debates are complicated by America's remarkable failure to address the reality of this challenge. US virus cases surge to highest level in 2 months.


Pipe Wrench

In addition to my sanity, one of the big urgencies around opening schools is that distance-learning doesn't work for kids who don't have high speed internet. "Unlike in other wealthy nations, the federal government has imposed no cost controls to make broadband more affordable. The result: massive inequality in one of the modern world's most basic utilities." Reveal: How the US' massive failure to close digital divide got exposed by coronavirus.


Vigilante’s Inferno

"His conservative Catholic worldview envisions a titanic struggle in contemporary America between Christian belief and nihilistic secularism, a struggle that requires law and justice to get off the sidelines and join the forces of light. This mix is volatile because it turns democratic politics into a clash of total systems, and compromise into acquiescence with evil." The Atlantic's great George Packer on the president's not so great William Barr: Failure Is a Contagion.

+ "A current Justice Department prosecutor is planning to tell lawmakers on Wednesday that in his many years in the government, 'I have never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision making. With one exception: United States v. Roger Stone.'"

+ "The decision was written by Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by Trump after holding a position in Trump's White House." Michael Flynn Is One Step Closer to Walking Off Scot-Free. (This could be the first time the Justice Department has celebrated unprosecuting someone.)

+ Whistleblower: Barr directed faulty antitrust reviews of marijuana mergers. "The rationale for doing so centered not on an antitrust analysis, but because [Barr] did not like the nature of their underlying business."

+ I don't like the nature of Barr's underlying business. And neither do 65 faculty members from his law school alma mater who say he has 'failed to fulfill his oath of office.' (That's just from one school...)


Algorithm Method Takes a Pregnant Pause

"Mr. Williams knew that he had not committed the crime in question. What he could not have known, as he sat in the interrogation room, is that his case may be the first known account of an American being wrongfully arrested based on a flawed match from a facial recognition algorithm, according to experts on technology and the law." NYT: Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm.

+ Wired: An Algorithm That ‘Predicts' Criminality Based on a Face Sparks a Furor. "Its creators said they could use facial analysis to determine if someone would become a criminal. Critics said the work recalled debunked 'race science.'"


Domestic Blitz

"The week after the incident with John, Heiman and York convened their class as scheduled. John called in, staying on mute for the entire hour. The following week, he left the meeting early, saying that his car was about to be towed; the week after that, he joined late, and blew up at York when she asked why. 'Man, f-ck this group,' he said, and hung up. He didn't call back. In early June, York learned that John had been arrested again, after attempting to strangle his ex-girlfriend. His parole has since been revoked." Domestic violence victims didn't have good support and safety structures before the pandemic. Imagine how it's going in the age of Zoom. The New Yorker: Can Domestic Abusers Keep Themselves Accountable When No One Is Watching?


Every Which Way But Noose

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace says he's 'pissed' members of the public are now questioning his integrity after the FBI said a noose found in his garage stall this week was there before his team moved in ... The FBI said Tuesday the noose had been in the garage since last year and Wallace was therefore not a victim of a hate crime. NASCAR, mentioning the FBI report, described the item as a 'garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose.'" This is a weird twist. But let's focus on the positives. There was no hate crime against Wallace this week. And NASCAR drivers came together to make an amazing statement against racism.


Western Sieve

"As citizens of the world the United States created, we are accustomed to listening to those who loathe America, admire America, and fear America (sometimes all at the same time). But feeling pity for America? That one is new, even if the schadenfreude is painfully myopic. If it's the aesthetic that matters, the U.S. today simply doesn't look like the country that the rest of us should aspire to, envy, or replicate." Tom McTague in The Atlantic: The Decline of the American World.


Chip Happens

"Last week, a group of six organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sleeping Giants and Color of Change, called on Facebook advertisers to halt their spending on the social media platform during the month of July. They're asking large brands 'to show they will not support a company that puts profit over safety.'" So far, Patagonia, The North Face, REI, Upwork, Mozilla and others have answered the call. The latest scoop: Ben & Jerry's joins boycott of Facebook and Instagram ads in the U.S.


Home By the Seat

"Gorman says he wouldn't want Morgan Stanley's employees working from home exclusively. And that seems to be the prevalent view for both management and employees. A Global Workplace Analytics survey says the sweet spot for workers is splitting the week between home and office." NPR: Get A Comfortable Chair: Permanent Work From Home Is Coming.


Bottom of the News

"Green remains adamant that Stein should have been prosecuted for falsifying drowning reports, but no criminal charges were ever filed. 'He is still the head of the program?' Green asked, when contacted recently. 'He's the J. Edgar Hoover of lifeguards.'" David Gauvey Herbert in NY Mag with the crazy story the Boss of the Beach. "For 40 years, the city's lifeguard corps has been mired in controversy, and for 40 years it's been run by one man: Peter Stein."

+ "Fans might not think too much about how they look or the quality of their oil, but Dan Ward does. A farmer in Clarkton, N.C., he grows jumbo Virginias in the southeast corner of the state. They're not the easiest peanut to grow. The delicate shells crack more easily than the runners destined for peanut butter, so pulling them from the ground takes more time and patience. Growing them takes a special touch, too." Even if we get a partial baseball season (and though things are scheduled to start next month, I'm dubious), Ballpark Peanuts, a Classic Summer Pleasure, Have Been Benched (leaving the game just a shell of what it once was...)

+ The Atlantic: My Little Pony Fans Are Ready to Admit They Have a Nazi Problem. (This is one of those rare times when Nazism is your second most troubling characteristic...)