Friday, July 31st, 2020


Tech, Lies, and Videotape

We're living in a simulation. Well, some of us are anyway. The simulation is taking place on social media platforms. WaPo's: Margaret Sullivan explains: This was the week America lost the war on misinformation. "They're absorbing fake news, but they don't see it as a problem. In a society that depends on an informed citizenry to make reasonably intelligent decisions about self-governance, this is the worst kind of trouble. And the president — who knows exactly what he is doing — is making it far, far worse. His war on the nation's traditional press is a part of the same scheme: information warfare, meant to mess with reality and sow as much confusion as possible." I often wonder how tens of millions of Americans can be supportive when they see the damage being done to the country. But the truth is that many of them are not seeing that reality at all; or they're experiencing so many conflicting realities that they throw their hands up and don't know what to believe. Either way, we're left with fertile grounds for manipulation. "Over time, people are conditioned to 'believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.' And then such leaders can do pretty much whatever they wish."


Splinter is Coming

"Overall, the scientists conveyed a pervasive sense of sadness and exhaustion. Where once there was defiance, and then a growing sense of dread, now there seems to be sorrow and frustration, a feeling that so many funerals never had to happen and that nothing is going well. The United States is a wounded giant, while much of Europe, which was hit first, is recovering and reopening — although not to us." The NYT's Donald G. McNeil Jr. has been one of the most accurate and prescient journalists covering the pandemic. Here's his latest: A Viral Epidemic Splintering Into Deadly Pieces. (The other thing splintering is the wall these experts have been banging their heads against for months.)

+ "We are not isolated; we are interconnected. The virus exploits that very interconnectedness of our society." Vox: San Francisco's lonely war against Covid-19.


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: As the court unseals documents related to the Ghislaine Maxwell side of the case, this a good time to watch the rather unbelievable documentary series, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich on Netflix. This is just one part of the story of what could be one of the crimes of the century. I was especially intrigued by Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be the ultimate creation of the media age: In the doc he appears free of ethics and comes off as a villain. And yet, he can't resist being part of the show because he can't resist being part of any show.

+ What to Read: "Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner's team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. 'The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.'" Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair: How Jared Kushner's Secret Testing Plan Went Poof Into Thin Air." (For months I've been saying: Pay attention to who's doing the dying.)

+ What to Book: You loved it when it first came out. And you loved it again when your kids got addicted. Maybe that makes this a family listen: An Oral History of The Office.

+ What to Beyonce: Beyonce on Disney Plus (I love it when two equally powerful brands team up...)


Voting Wrongs Act

Yale's Timothy Snyder in WaPo: "A fascist guide to commentary on elections would have eight parts: contradict yourself to test the faith of your followers; tell a big lie to draw attention from basic realities; manufacture a crisis; designate enemies; make an appeal to pride and humiliation; express hostility to voting; cast doubt on democratic procedures; and aim for personal power. Trump achieves all eight with admirable concision in this one tweet."

+ The New Yorker: Trump Is the Election Crisis He Is Warning About.

+ There are misleading tweets, and then there are the real moves behind the scenes: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November, and, Pending Postal Service Changes Could Delay Mail And Deliveries. (Interesting time for the newly Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to making big changes to the organization...)

+ "In the end, the Department of Justice and others will make that legal determination." Mike Pompeo, who knows the law, wouldn't state the law.


Strangers in the Mirror

If the pandemic is holding up a mirror to societal inequalities, then climate change will be a mirror that has 1,000,000x magnification. NYT: A Quarter of Bangladesh Is Flooded. Millions Have Lost Everything. "This is one of the most striking inequities of the modern era. Those who are least responsible for polluting Earth's atmosphere are among those most hurt by its consequences. The average American is responsible for 33 times more planet-warming carbon dioxide than the average Bangladeshi. This chasm has bedeviled diplomacy for a generation, and it is once again in stark relief as the coronavirus pandemic upends the global economy and threatens to push the world's most vulnerable people deeper into ruin."


Swish Splash

"The game's introduction was a collective expression of protest and unity, with players wearing black T-shirts with "Black Lives Matter" etched in white across their chests. Arms interlocked along the entire length of the sideline, players and staff from both teams knelt on the court during the national anthem. This scene of sober solidarity in a sparsely populated gym of masked onlookers captured the two stories that have upended the nation -- and the NBA." Inside the first night of the NBA's bold bubble experiment. The suspension of the NBA season was the moment when the pandemic got real for many Americans. Having it back is a milestone of sorts. Seeing players, coaches, and even refs kneel during the anthem is one more piece of evidence that big brands are moving in the opposite direction of the president. (A look at last night's Twitter trends suggested people may have missed the game a bit...)

+ Sports inside an NBA-like bubble can work. Can they work outside of it? MLB calls off Cardinals-Brewers game due to positive coronavirus tests.

+ Meanwhile, football is getting underway. Bills send all rookies home from training camp after 5 positive COVID-19 tests.

+ ‘Unconscionable': Bob Costas Rails Against Forcing a College Football Season Amid Pandemic When Players Aren't Compensated.


There’s Gold Testifying on Them Thar Hill

How did investors react to the Congressional hearings that put tech execs on the hot seat. They seemed pretty cool with it. "Four of the largest tech companies added $200 billion in value after hours Thursday following strong earnings reports."

+ Apple is going through the roof (again), even though the company confirmed that new iPhones won't arrive in September. (First the election delay. Now iPhones?! America can't take this...)


Bull’s Eye

"Bull Connor may be gone. But today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators." Barack Obama's eulogy for John Lewis did not mince words. Just as Lewis would have wanted it.


Put a Little Index on It

"Portion of remote-learning children in households making under $25,000 a year who log on once a week or less: 2/5." ... "Of those in households making over $100,000 a year who log on every day : 4/5." Harper's Index is always interesting. This month, especially so.


Feel Good Friday

"After four years on the job, Pompilio said there has been a significant drop in repeat 911 calls with approximately 15 percent fewer people going to jail. Now retired, former Alexandria Police Department chief Mike Ward said the results were immediate both for people in need and taxpayers." Kentucky town hires social workers instead of more officers - and the results are surprising.

+ These SF teens built a school supplies pipeline for low-income families. (My son started a Call of Duty game in his room in April and I haven't seen him since...)

+ Georgia inmates hailed as heroes for saving injured deputy.

+ A New Orleans Musician Offers Kids Trumpets In Exchange For Their Guns. (A week later, the neighbors are like, "Get the gun back...")

+ St. Bernard dog named Daisy rescued from England's highest peak. (She doesn't look particularly concerned.)

+ Twitch is helping to create an esports league for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (This feels like one of the more 2020 headlines of 2020.)

+ Dunkin' Donut Caffeinated Coffee Cereal? Yes.

+ Where did everyone's shoes go? What does the fox say?