Tuesday, July 14th, 2020


The Cover-up

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield: "Face coverings work. It's our major defense to prevent ourselves from getting this infection. If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next 4-6 weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground." That's it, folks. That's the lede, the nut graph, and the kicker, all in one quote. (For those not familiar with these journalistic terms, bottom line, wear a friggin' mask.)

+ "America's divisiveness over masks is alarmingly familiar: Everyone from streetcar conductors to physicians railed against masks during the 1918 pandemic. Said one public official: 'Under no circumstances will I be muzzled like a hydrophobic dog.'" FastCo: People hated masks during the 1918 pandemic, too. 675,000 Americans died. (Also, that's no muzzle. That's a mask.)


CDC Shell Game

"Former staffers at the agency, at the Department of Health and Human Services, and the other agencies under its umbrella, also described a culture focused on avoiding politics — one that has left the agency unprepared for the political pressure of handling the coronavirus response, or for Trump's onslaught of criticism and pushback." Stat: The CDC has always been an apolitical island. That's left it defenseless against Trump.

+ Of course, the CDC shouldn't need to defend itself from the president. WaPo: "We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has."


Polar Opposites

"The contours of today's world, the argument went, are simply incomparable to the decades when the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in an existential struggle for supremacy. The world was said to be too interconnected to easily divide into ideological blocs. Now, lines are being drawn and relations are in free fall, laying the foundation for a confrontation that will have many of the characteristics of the Cold War — and the dangers." NYT: Caught in ‘Ideological Spiral,' U.S. and China Drift Toward Cold War.

+ In the latest salvo, the US got the UK to join the Huawei ban. BBC: Huawei 5G kit must be removed from UK by 2027.

+ FBI Director Christopher Wray: "The greatest long-term threat to our nation's information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China. We need to be clear-eyed about the scope of the Chinese government's ambition. China—the Chinese Communist Party—believes it's in a generational fight to surpass our country in economic and technological leadership ... We've now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours. Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China." Great backgrounder from Garrett Graff in Wired: Could Trump Win the War on Huawei—and Is TikTok Next?

+ If there is a Tik Tok ban, there will be a lot of excited competitors. (My daughter will also move to China.)


The Manhattan Project

"It's no longer just foreign countries who have shown this can be done. New Yorkers showed us this is possible. We can do this. New York now takes the virus as seriously as the rest of the world, and they know how to contain this. Their vigilance is just beginning. And sustaining it will be hard. But the backside of that curve brings tears to my eyes. The nurses. The doctors. The paramedics. The way to honor them? Let them be our teachers. Sit there in Phoenix and Houston and Charlotte and Miami, and don't doubt them when they tell you not to mess around." NYC just had a zero coronavirus death day. Andy Slavitt: Lessons From New York. (We can do it. But it takes a lot of doing.)


Aftermath Humanity

"It was a revival of medical science, which had been dismissed after the fall of ancient Rome, a thousand years earlier. 'After the Black Death, nothing was the same,' Pomata said. 'What I expect now is something as dramatic is going to happen, not so much in medicine but in economy and culture. Because of danger, there's this wonderful human response, which is to think in a new way.'" Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker: How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds. "The plague marked the end of the Middle Ages and the start of a great cultural renewal. Could the coronavirus, for all its destruction, offer a similar opportunity for radical change?" (You know we're getting worn out when the most positive spin I can find on the pandemic is an article about Black Death...)


Death Mettle

"The American people have made the considered choice to permit capital punishment for the most egregious federal crimes, and justice was done today in implementing the sentence for Lee's horrific offenses." So said William Barr after the first federal execution in 17 years. (So during a pandemic we're working on raising the number of deaths?)


Life Lessons

"It is, in effect, Day One of a grand, involuntary, national experiment in remote education that will expose systemic inequalities in education like nothing else before it. Family dynamics, poverty and social isolation will test even the most steadfast students. For Jonathan, Lilian, Am'Brianna, Ryan and their peers, the pressure will steadily build over 69 days, as they prepare for an exam that might persuade an elite college to give a kid from a nonelite high school a second look. But for now, it's just the start of what's billed as an extended, three-week spring break." WaPo follows a teacher and a group of students as they face the pandemic and the test of their lives.

+ And meanwhile, in opposite world... "The girl, Grace, hadn't broken the law again. The 15-year-old wasn't in trouble for fighting with her mother or stealing, the issues that had gotten her placed on probation in the first place. She was incarcerated in May for violating her probation by not completing her online coursework." ProPublica: A Teenager Didn't Do Her Online Schoolwork. So a Judge Sent Her to Juvenile Detention.


Mutual Hatred

"Like DeSean Jackson, the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver who is being condemned for posting a fake Adolf Hitler quote on his Instagram feed last week, I too have had an ill-advised Hitler moment." Jemele Hill in The Atlantic: The Anti-Semitism We Didn't See. (Deflect the hate back where it came from. Not onto other targets of that hate.)


Liberate the Tree!

ABC News: "Public health officials have announced that a squirrel in Colorado has tested positive for the bubonic plague." That's nuts. And acorns.


Bottom of the News

"While the bare shelves brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have largely been restocked across New York City and the country, times are still far from normal at supermarkets, which face less pronounced but potentially more enduring shifts. Americans have become accustomed to enjoying an extraordinary variety of choices — sometimes a dozen or more brands of everything from ketchup to potato chips to, yes, toilet paper. The pandemic changed all that." NYT: Flour and Toilet Paper Are Back at N.Y. Supermarkets, but without the extraordinary variety of choices. (Maybe this is good timing since we got bored of baking and stopped giving a shit.)

+ The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards.

+ A floating movie theater where people sit in socially distant boats on the water is coming to Paris. (I was thinking a private yacht with a movie theater, but sure, let's try the floaties...)

+ White House campaign to help jobless: "Find something new."