Monday, August 17th, 2020


It’s Like Herding Stats

Sometimes, the most confusing part of Covid-19 is when the spread slows down. We've learned a lot about how the virus spreads, but in places like NYC, are we also getting key clues about when the curve flattens? And are those clues suggesting that herd immunity might come at a lower infection rate than we thought? (Or are these just breaks between the waves?) What if Herd Immunity Is Closer Than Scientists Thought? "To achieve so-called herd immunity — the point at which the virus can no longer spread because there are not enough vulnerable humans — scientists have suggested that perhaps 70 percent of a given population must be immune, through vaccination or because they survived the infection. Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews ... more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less."


Mad Mask

One of the least confusing aspects of the Covid-19 is that masks save lives. According to the latest polling, "if there were a national mandate requiring people to wear masks in public places, 74% of Americans would support it." The anti-mask militias humiliating themselves and America are not among those 74%: The New Yorker: The Militias Against Masks. "Most militia members I met subscribed to a version of constitutional fundamentalism that is inseparable from their Christian faith. The only legitimate role of government, they believe, is the protection of individual liberties vouchsafed to humanity by God. Plenty of mainstream Republicans share this philosophy, and during the pandemic they have struggled to reconcile it with the need to manage a public-health catastrophe." (This helps explain why god would never get within six feet of these people.)

+ Coronavirus Cases Drop 46% In Parts Of S. Carolina With Mask Mandates Compared To Areas Without.


Buffer Zone

"Before the pandemic, it was called "the homework gap," because of the growing number of teachers who assigned homework that required Internet access. Now, as the pandemic forces many schools to switch to remote learning, disconnected students will miss more than homework. They'll miss all of school." WaPo: As coronavirus forces many schools online this fall, millions of disconnected students are being left behind. (Like many of the problems being exposed during the pandemic, we've known about this one for years.)


You Are Here

"'Is there no bottom?' legions complain on Twitter, citing the president's latest lies, incitements to violence, and flattering comments about murderous autocrats. It is precisely this absence of a bottom that draws many to leaders like Trump, who think big, make the unthinkable possible, and are open about their desire to exercise power without limits or restraints. Breaking the rules, and getting away with it, is at the center of the ethos of macho lawlessness that underpins strongman rule." Ruth Ben-Ghiat in The New York Review of Books: Co-opt & Corrupt: How Trump Bent and Broke the GOP. Can it happen here? That question is out of date. The question now is: Can it be stopped here?


Return to Tender

AP: Pelosi calls House back into session to vote on Postal bill. "Pelosi is cutting short lawmakers' summer recess with a vote expected Saturday on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency as tensions mount. President Donald Trump's new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has sparked nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks just as millions of Americans will be trying to vote by mail to avoid polling places during the coronavirus outbreak. Trump on Monday defended the agency's embattled new leader, a major Republican donor, but also criticized postal operations and claimed that universal mail-in ballots would be a disaster. 'I want to make the post office great again.'" MTPOGA has a nice ring to it.


From Bad to Worst

"She used to send two hundred to three hundred dollars every eight days to her sisters and her mother, who was on dialysis, in Mexico. But her savings are gone, and in April she had to stop. A month and a half later, her mother died. 'I crossed a desert to get here. I thought that was the worst thing I'd ever experienced,' Díaz told me. 'But, no, this is the worst—being stuck.'" The New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer on The Renegade Priest Helping Undocumented People Survive the Pandemic.



"Traditionally, political conventions are painstakingly choreographed live productions that are planned years in advance. But the coronavirus pandemic has reduced the nominating celebration to a minimal footprint in Milwaukee -- with major programming and production details still in flux just days before it is set to begin." The pandemic-era conventions are coming, starting with the Dems this week. The only thing we know for sure is that they can't be any worse than regular conventions.


The Thrilla in Flotilla

The morning after being replaced, "Parscale arrived at Trump headquarters. The staff crowded around as he recalled the earliest days of the campaign, when he said it was just him and five others working out of the basement of the Republican National Committee. Parscale became emotional — "choked up," as one campaign official put it — scanning the roomful of faces he'd hired to build an operation he said he was proud of. He said he knew that Stepien would lead the team over the finish line but that — despite what the press was reporting — he wasn't going anywhere. 'And then he literally just walked right out the door,' the campaign official said with a laugh." NY Mag's Olivia Nuzzi with an entertaining look inside a presidential campaign. But not just any campaign. The Most Tremendous Reelection Campaign in American History Ever.

+ The most excellent Joel Stein: Trump's secret weapon against Biden is — boat parades?!? "At a recent event in Florida, Trump said, 'You see the boaters out. There are thousands and thousands of boats every weekend, and we appreciate it, but nobody has seen anything like it, ever.' That may be true. When else have we seen so many watercraft organized for a purpose other than a military attack, a blockade or a way to share alcohol and blast competing forms of music until it all sounds like Kid Rock?"


Branding Iron

"On Sunday, the thermometer at Death Valley's Furnace Creek, located in the deserts of Southern California, soared to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NOAA's Weather Prediction Center. If verified, it would be the hottest temperature recorded in the U.S. since 1913, and perhaps the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded in the world." Hey, it's a place called Furnace Creek in another place called Death Valley. Visitors can't really argue they were victims of false advertising.


Bottom of the News

"Some airlines have been moving away from the use of floppy discs, but others are stuck with engineers visiting each month to sit and load eight floppies with updates to airports, flight paths, runways, and more." Boeing 747s still get critical updates via floppy disks.

+ Pepperoni is the latest coronavirus shortage.

+ "Joseph Bouchard, 39, of Cranston, was riding on his motorcycle when he struck a fire hydrant on Natick Avenue and then fled." But he left evidence at the scene, including the woman who was on the back of the motorcycle. (This is about as far as you can get from the dude who beat the hell out the shark last week...)