Monday, August 3rd, 2020


This is U.S.

We know who's done the most damage to America's coronavirus-fighting efforts. But he's far from alone. Many of the elements that landed us in this mess have been percolating for decades. Ed Yong in The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Defeated America: "Almost everything that went wrong with America's response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation's ability to prevent the pathogen's spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation's social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic." Leadership failures, broken health system, racism, removing the safety net, the internet...

+ ... and our weird proclivity for getting angry at policies that will save lives. That it turns out is nothing new either. NYT: The Mask Slackers of 1918. "Resisters complained about appearance, comfort and freedom, even after the flu killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October alone."

+ We have changed in some ways. For example, we have a lot more firepower now. Man fires at cops with AK-47 after refusing to wear a mask.


Plan Overboard

"Outbreaks of Covid-19 recorded on MS Roald Amundsen in Norway and the Paul Gauguin in Tahiti." And some of those on board disembarked and now must be found and traced. Is this a callback to March news? Nope. This is August, folks. Two cruise ships hit by coronavirus weeks after industry restarts.


Mail Pattern Boldness

As you may have gathered from the president's multitude of tweets on the subject, the mail is a key election battleground. So this is worth noting. "Neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region are experiencing significant delays in receiving their mail, with some residents going upwards of three weeks without packages and letters, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills."

+ "Post offices around the country are slashing their hours—including during the busiest times of day—with little notice as yet another abrupt cost-saving measure, according to interviews with union officials conducted by Motherboard and various local news reports. The USPS had also planned to close some offices entirely with just three weeks' notice, likely in violation of federal law, but appears to be backtracking." You can feel a big story gaining momentum here and nothing about it smells right. The P.U. box is the new P.O. box.

+ Meanwhile, as we try to understand the big efforts at corruption, the little ones just keep on keepin' on. Trump directed controversial Pentagon pick into new role with similar duties after nomination failed.


The Counter Feat

"Picture this Thanksgiving: turkey, football (maybe), tenser-than-usual interactions with relatives. And perhaps a new tradition: finding out who actually won the presidential election. The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website." Ben Smith in the NYT trying to ruin your perfectly not that good Monday... We may not know the results for days, and maybe weeks. So it's time to rethink election night. (I still haven't fully recovered from election night 2016.)


School Pigeons

"Because the virus came here early and did unspeakable damage, and because the city endured a three-month lockdown, New York is now, from a coronavirus perspective, one of the safest urban school districts in the United States. It is therefore theoretically one of the easiest to reopen. But for the very same reasons, it is the hardest school district to reopen. Its employees have seen what the virus can do to entire communities." NY Mag: What Will the First Day of School Look Like? (For me, it's gonna look like my kids turning away from their class Zooms to complain that I haven't brought them their lunch yet.)


Splash Brothers

"The Crew Dragon capsule carrying Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, just before 3 p.m. local time — the first splashdown by American astronauts in 45 years." (My question for the astronauts: Why'd you come back?)


Dropping the Crime Dime

From FiveThirtyEight: Many Americans Are Convinced Crime Is Rising In The U.S. They're Wrong. "The biggest challenge really, and we're seeing this as a society across the board right now, is that even though our organizations, our businesses, our government entities are becoming more data driven, we as human beings are not." (This is not happening in a vacuum. Politicians using fear as a motivator have worked to convince people of soaring crime for decades.)


Last Words

"Daniel and I went downstairs to the basement and we were chatting, as we always do. And Daniel said 'Mom, let's keep talking, I love talking to you, Mom.' It was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang, and Daniel looked at me and said, 'Who is that?'" US District Court judge Esther Salas whose family was attacked details her son's last words and her message about protecting judges and their families.


Pick Wisely

"Not unlike defusing a bomb, the practice calls for incredible precision -- listening and feeling for the acute signal that progress is being made ... It's rigorous and demanding, but for the locksport community, it's all worth it to hear that final click." Inside the hidden world of competitive lockpicking.

+ Speaking of lock-picking, The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton is a great novel if you need a little escape.


Bottom of the News

I'm guessing that comfortable, ergonomic chairs will prove to be one of the biggest selling products of the pandemic. Now, there seems to be a trend where people are tricking out their desk chairs with rollerblade wheels. (Why? The short answer is that we care a lot more about our own floors than the ones at our offices.)

+ It's still not too late to get your Fyre logo gear. Fyre Festival Merch Seized by U.S. Marshals Hits the Auction Block.

+ "Producers in France's eastern Champagne region, headquarters of the global industry, say they've lost an estimated $2 billion in sales for this year, as turnover fell by a third — a hammering unmatched in living memory, and worse than the Great Depression." Champagne losing its fizz as global pandemic clobbers sales. (Keep it on ice. We'll make up for it in November.)

+ "Money laundering is not a good idea, as a South Korean found out when they put banknotes in a washing machine to remove possible traces of the coronavirus." Officials say the loss was considerable. (It's not a total loss. I hear Trump org is hiring...)