July 11th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Corruption, and if you want answers, consider looking at Roller Derby.

“You learned the two greatest things in life … never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.” That was the advice Jimmy Conway gives Henry Hill after his first arrest in Goodfellas. It turns out that when it comes to the Trump crime family, you only have to heed the first half of that feedback. Roger Stone didn’t rat. But he’s never really kept his mouth shut. The former was enough for President Trump to commute Stone’s sentence (and you thought your commute was bad) in a heartbreaking work of staggering corruption. Right now, the two luckiest people in America are Roger Stone and whoever was gonna be his cellmate. Howard Fineman in WaPo: “Trump’s decision to free Stone from having to serve a prison term — never really in doubt — was a foghorn blast of everything you need to know about the president and his administration. Whatever Stone had or hadn’t done or said, however controversial the trial, what mattered most was that he kept his mouth shut.” Roger Stone is saved. ” (Now the question is whether the republic can be.)

+ “He clowned, he cavorted, he demanded limelight—which made it in some ways impossible to imagine that he could have done anything seriously amiss … Yet Stone is the central figure in the greatest scandals in U.S. history. Ames, Hanssen, the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss—none of them worked with a foreign intelligence service to help a candidate for president of the United States. Stone did. And now he will receive a commutation of his sentence from the president he served. The amazing thing about the Trump-Stone story is how much of it happened in the full light of day.” (That’s the most amazing thing about the whole era.) David Frum: Stone Walks Free in One of the Greatest Scandals in American History.

+ Amazingly, letting Stone free might not be this particular Friday Night Blight historians focus on the most. Remember how William Barr tried to force the top prosecutor out at the SDNY and replace him with a more Trump-friendly face? He just used the same technique in the Eastern District of New York. Judge swears in new top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn (the hub for DOJ’s Ukraine work). This is a angle not even Goodfella Jimmy Conway thought of. If you really want to get away with a crime, just become the President of the United States.


New Coronavirus Task Force

“Mikaela Kosich (derby name: Bubble Wrath), a biostatistician at the University of New Mexico, heeded the call. So did Nikki McCorristin (derby name: Trauma), an infection control nurse in Salt Lake City, and Bobbiejean Garcia (derby name: BG Smack), an epidemiologist in Houston. In the end, close to two dozen athlete-experts from six countries collaborated on the sport’s return-to-play guidelines. In recent weeks, as professional basketball and baseball, as well as college football, have bumbled through ill-considered efforts to reopen, it’s clear the roller derby plan is worth a careful look. Experts in infection control say it’s the best of its kind.” Wired: Women’s Roller Derby Has a Plan for Covid, and It Kicks Ass.


Reentering the Dead Zone

“The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months, and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations — and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days. Scientists warned it wouldn’t last.” Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse.

+ As Texas morgues fill up, refrigerator trucks are on the way in several counties.

+ “Packed elevators and crowded committee rooms. Legislators sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the House and Senate floor. People standing close to each other and talking, sometimes leaning in to whisper, without a mask in sight … Those were common scenes at the Mississippi Capitol in June … and now at least 26 lawmakers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the biggest known outbreak in any state legislature in the nation.”

+ “I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that may be one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately.” Anthony Fauci hasn’t been on TV much lately. And he hasn’t seen the president in person at the White House for more than a month.

+ Hey, America, your Covid19 deaths are back on the rise and you just recorded more than 70,000 new cases in a single day. What are you going to do? “I’m going to Disney World!”


Inequality of Life

“Then the pandemic hit, and Ms. Abello lost her cleaning work. By May, she had been evicted, forcing her to move her children into a tin shed in an illegal settlement high above the city. At night, a bitter cold pushed its way in. A lifetime of effort had evaporated in a matter of weeks.” NYT: In Latin America, the Pandemic Threatens Equality Like Never Before.

+ Virus cases up sharply in Africa, India as inequality stings.


Magistrate Talk

“The stakes were even higher this year, as the election loomed over the term. And so he set out to ensure that the Supreme Court would not become a campaign issue. The chief justice knows that both parties treat the court like a piñata, trying to convince their respective bases that they know how to smack the most candy out of it. He knows Democrats remain traumatized over Merrick Garland’s stymied appointment and Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s toxic confirmation. During the Democratic primary, multiple top-tier candidates pronounced themselves open to adding seats to the Supreme Court to counter Republicans’ judicial chicanery. Roberts also knows that a term filled with one conservative triumph after another would only have given Democrats ammunition to run against the court, framing it as a partisan institution in need of reform. That didn’t happen.” Politics aren’t supposed to play a role in the Supreme Court. That’s why Supreme Court political stories are so damn interesting. The Political Genius of John Roberts.


Between Tik Tok and a Hard Place

“Amazon on Friday asked its employees to delete the Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their cellphones, putting the tech giant at the center of growing suspicion and paranoia about the app. Almost five hours later, Amazon reversed course, saying the email to workers was sent in error.” NYT: TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has been under scrutiny as a potential national security threat. (Finally, after wasting most of the summer, my kids are involved in a case of international intrigue.)

+ WaPo: Millions watched an Indian man eat chicken legs on TikTok until the app was banned.


One More Money Shot

Yes, the $20 dollar bill is only a symbol, but as we’ve seen during the past few months, symbols matter. So my wife Gina and I launched the Harriet Tubman Change the Twenty Program. For every $20 shirt purchased, we will donate $20 to a Donors Choose K-12 program focused on Black history, literature, equality, and/or racial justice. We’re approaching 1,000 shirts sold. Get your shirt and spread the word.


Disappoint Blank

“He has insisted that he does not want to be an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Yet he has set up the company in such a way — completely under his sway — that suggests he has to be, in fact, an arbiter of truth.” Kara Swisher: Zuckerberg Never Fails to Disappoint. (Or as I wrote back in May: “In other words, there is an arbiter of truth. It’s Zuckerberg.”)


Sucking Wind

We can’t have nice things if we don’t get the virus under control. My guess is that the list of things we can’t have will include baseball, football, movies, and concerts. And we definitely can’t have free Slurpees on 7-11.


Bottom of the News

I think I have it. Have what? It. I’ve got extreme fatigue, migraines, chills, aches, nausea and a fever of 102. Are we talking about coronavirus? We are. I’m worried. I’m 50. People my age are dying. That does sound concerning. Let’s get you tested. OK, I’m ready. You mean now? Of course. Oh, you can’t do one now. Why not? How’s late next week look for you? Late next week? I’m sick today. We have three appointments in mid July. Wait. Those were just taken. How’s your end-of-month? The most excellent Dave Eggers with another spot-on look at America’s exceptional way of handling the virus. Testing, Testing … You want a coronavirus test? How about next month? (After reading this, I’d sure hate to be in Eggers’ quarantine bubble…)

+ With a dad who writes a newsletter that features free ads for non-profits, it’s not a big surprise that my son is looking to make some money this summer. He’s been making professional-grade overlays for video game streamers. So if you or your kid fits that description, give my son a try. These prices won’t last! (Please spread the word. A few gigs for my son could validate my existence in my house…)

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