Tuesday, July 7th, 2020


The PPP Tape

We're finally learning who got some of the bigger checks from the Treasury Department's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We already knew a lot of deserving organizations got the money and used it to keep folks employed. And, of course, we expected many borderline companies to apply for the money because no one really knew (or knows) how long this thing is going to go on. But things get more interesting when we get a glimpse at some of the companies that took down the big bucks. "The recipients include many you probably wouldn't have expected. Kanye West's clothing line. The sculptor Jeff Koons. Law firms and high-dollar hedge funds. The Girl Scouts. Political groups on both the left and right." (Going after the Yeezy money? At least PPP-Diddy isn't on the list.)

+ "Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation (ATRF), stridently argues against taxpayer-financed bailouts. Norquist recently signed onto a letter arguing that government spending was hindering economic recovery following the pandemic." That said, Grover took the dough. Judd Legum with a further look inside the black box. (One day you're against government bailouts, the next day the Treasury is your personal ATMinem. That's Shady, Slim. Judd, way to Snoop, Dogg!)

+ ProPublica: Trump Friends and Family Cleared for Millions in Small Business Bailout. (That's a Ludacris coincidence.)

+ "As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump's election efforts ... Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April." (It's good to get the skrilla A$AP, Rocky...)

+ "Businesses tied to the president's son-in-law as well as members of Congress got taxpayer funds. As did the elite D.C.-area schools where both President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama enrolled their children: St. Andrew's Episcopal School, where Barron Trump is a student, got between $2 million and $5 million; and Sidwell Friends School, where both Obama children graduated high school, got between $5 million and $10 million." I guess the elite aren't so bad after all. Trump's Small Biz Rescue Bailed Out Kushner's Family, Obama's Aides and Other Political Elite. In all these cases, the money only goes from being a loan to being a grant if there are no layoffs at the companies. So the end result is a net positive. Except for the small businesses who got cut off without so much as a 50 cent coin. (Not that the big players cared about that. Most of them have Ice Cube running through their veins...)


Between Two Buns

"To follow the burger is to glimpse the lasting toll of this pandemic: on the beef supply chain, on the restaurant industry, on the people who were struggling before this catastrophe began, kept going to work throughout it and are still waiting to see what their lives will become when it ends. Solano tucked the spatula under the patty. It spiraled into the air, one moment closer to a destiny that was set in motion two years ago." WaPo, with an interesting look at our changing pandemic world. The lives upended around a $20 cheeseburger. (This is a well done story providing a rare glimpse into different parts of the economy. I'm surprised it wasn't on Medium.)


Tony Stark

"A series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up in the sense of getting back to some form of normality has led to a situation where we now have record-breaking cases ... The European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to baseline. Now they're having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now it's surging back up. So it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately." Anthony Fauci is now doing his interviews on Facebook Live. But the message is still accurate, and it's getting worse.

+ "By now they are used to sharing their knowledge with journalists, but they're less accustomed to talking about themselves. Many of them told me that they feel duty-bound and grateful to be helping their country at a time when so many others are ill or unemployed. But they're also very tired, and dispirited by America's continued inability to control a virus that many other nations have brought to heel." Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The Pandemic Experts Are Not Okay. "America isn't just facing a shortfall of testing kits, masks, or health-care workers. It is also looking at a drought of expertise, as the very people whose skills are sorely needed to handle the pandemic are on the verge of burning out."

+ MoJo: Inside the Facebook Group Where Doctors Process Their Immense Coronavirus Grief.


Dios Rio

"With more than 1.6 million confirmed cases as of Tuesday, Brazil is in the throes of the world's second-largest outbreak, behind only the U.S. More than 65,000 people there have died of complications linked to COVID-19 — a towering death toll that again stands second only to that of the U.S. And because of a significant lag in testing, Brazilian researchers believe the real numbers are much, much higher than the official tallies." Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has consistently downplayed Covid19 and done a remarkably poor job of leading his country during this time, tests positive for coronavirus. Some voters might believe the bullshit, but the virus couldn't care less.


The Needle and The Haystack

"There are scientifically proven ways to fight this virus, and we've failed at every one. Our testing is too slow. We have no clear leadership. Millions of people can't afford to stay home, and now we're throwing fits about social distancing or wearing masks. It's like the United States is down to one solution that might save us from ourselves, one final bailout — the vaccine. Where's the vaccine? When can we get it? That's what the entire country is waiting on, so it feels strange that I didn't have to wait." From WaPo's Eli Saslow, Ian Haydon on the trial and error of being injected with a covid-19 vaccine. "I have a great-grandfather who died of the Spanish flu in 1918, when he was only 23 years old. I put my trust in scientists to come up with solutions. I believe in experiments. I had a biology teacher tell me once that if you know the results before you start, you're not doing real science. I made my peace with the unknown. I signed all the forms."

+ "The government has placed a significant bet on Novavax, a company based in Maryland that has never brought a product to market." NYT: U.S. Will Pay $1.6 Billion to Novavax for Coronavirus Vaccine. (This is one of many efforts to accelerate the process.)

+ Horseshoe-crab blood is a surprisingly essential ingredient for testing new drugs. (The world is so upside down that it's now considered a positive to say, "I have crabs.")


The Mouse That Roared

"Colin Kaepernick and the Walt Disney Company announced a production deal Monday that will see the activist quarterback produce "scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity" for the media giant's various platforms, including ESPN. Work has already begun on a documentary series that will explore the last five years of Kaepernick's life, as he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before N.F.L. games to protest racism and police brutality, and later accused team owners of colluding to keep him out of the league." NYT: Kaepernick's Deal With Disney Includes a Jemele Hill Project at ESPN. This is good news for Kaep, but the deal is part of a broader trend; one that's as important as any political shift happening right now. From the NFL, to Disney, to NASCAR, Corporate America is choosing a side in the culture wars. And it's the exact opposite side as the president.


Ice Picks Another Fight

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday that international students who are taking classes entirely online this fall will not be allowed to enter the United States or must leave if they're already in the country." This is the Covid plan. Tweet, lie, and use the opportunity to screw foreigners and immigrants for no reason. (Did I mention that the classes will only be online because of the wanton failures of the same administration that is looking to boot these students out of the country?)


The Tragedy of the Donald

"By limiting Donald's access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son's perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it ... lying was defensive — not simply a way to circumvent his father's disapproval or to avoid punishment, as it was for the others, but a way to survive." WaPo with some outtakes from the book the Trumps tried to stop. Trump's worldview forged by neglect and trauma at home, his niece says in new book. These revelations, while interesting, won't be particularly surprising. But you might be surprised by my reaction to them. I don't think it's impossible that Donald Trump will end up being viewed as a tragic figure when this is all over. He wanted his father's approval. He wanted to be welcomed by the liberal elite. He wanted to be loved by fellow celebrities. How'd all that go? Sure, he's a terrible president at a time when we need a good one. But he should have never been elected in the first place.


Sherlock Mahomes

"When Katie Camlin arrived at work Monday afternoon in Kansas City, Missouri, her boss had news for her. Some Chiefs employees, he told her, had come to their Plaza Liquor store in search of six bottles of Dom Perignon champagne." How a Kansas City liquor store manager broke the news of Patrick Mahomes' record-setting contract.


Bottom of the News

Wow. The Change the Twenty Program I launched yesterday got off to a great start. Hundreds of Tubman 20 Shirts have been sold already. And for every $20 shirt purchased, my wife Gina and I will donate $20 to a Donors Choose K-12 program focused on Black history, literature, equality, and/or racial justice. Get your shirt and spread the word.

+ Bloomberg: Can Salad Bars Be Saved? (They can if I have anything to say about it.)

+ "What happens when an African grey parrot goes head-to-head with 21 Harvard students in a test measuring a type of visual memory? Put simply: The parrot moves to the head of the class." (Yeah, but let's see if the bird can figure out how to use Zoom...)