Sunday, August 23rd, 2020


Double Crossed

California is burning. Our ability to fight the fires is limited by the focus on the pandemic, the fact that many firefighting crews from prisons are on Covid lockdown or were freed, and the reality that many families being told to evacuate are afraid to go to shelters where the virus risk will go up. And that's just for starters. The urgency to flatten the corona curve was about saving lives, but it was also about freeing resources to deal with other crises. The failure is compounding. And California's nightmare is coming to a place near you. The Atlantic: Two Disasters Are Exponentially Worse Than One. "One disaster is bad. Two are worse, but the damage doesn't just double. This confluence of circumstances can seem like a series of independent misfortunes, when in fact it is a tangle of loose contingencies. A single high-pressure system rolling in from the Southwest initiated the heat wave and the thunderstorms, which together created the conditions for the fires, which will likely both exacerbate and be exacerbated by the pandemic, which has diminished firefighting resources and, along with the heat wave, contributed to the blackouts by keeping people at home with their air-conditioning on full blast. These overlapping disasters compound. 'It's more than plus one.'"

+ Coronavirus Limits California's Efforts to Fight Fires With Prison Labor.

+ The fires burning in California right now are already among the worst in history and the season is just starting.

+ Next up: Extreme weather threatens pandemic response in hard-hit states. "Two tropical storms are expected to strike the Gulf Coast in rapid succession this week."


Bro Code Cracked

Shh. You guys, I'm gonna leak some confidential recordings, but please, please don't share what you hear. There appears to be some evidence that Trump might not be a man of excellent principles. Not only that, but he may not be as trustworthy as you thought. In secretly recorded audio, President Trump's sister says he has no principles and you can't trust him. "I'm talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit." (You want holy shit? A party's entire leadership knows this and enthusiastically enables him, and tens of millions of Americans know this and are still cool with four more years of it.)


Fail Whale

"If the pandemic really is a kind of war, it's the first to be fought on this soil in a century and a half. Invasion and occupation expose a society's fault lines, exaggerating what goes unnoticed or accepted in peacetime, clarifying essential truths, raising the smell of buried rot. The virus should have united Americans against a common threat. With different leadership, it might have. Instead, even as it spread from blue to red areas, attitudes broke down along familiar partisan lines. The virus also should have been a great leveler. You don't have to be in the military or in debt to be a target—you just have to be human. But from the start, its effects have been skewed by the inequality that we've tolerated for so long." George Packer in The Atlantic: We Are Living in a Failed State: The coronavirus didn't break America. It revealed what was already broken.

+ "While these countries seem so different, the response to the pandemic in each place has underscored all the other things they have in common: populist or authoritarian-leaning leaders, officials who have flouted the advice of their top scientists while pushing absurd remedies to fight the virus, and enormous swaths of the population with no safety net to help them stay at home." These Countries Have The Highest COVID-19 Infection Rates.


Going to Hell in a Hannity Basket

"Hannity played his part masterfully. But his friends told me he was burnt out for long stretches of the Trump presidency. Being the president's 'shadow chief of staff,' as he was known around the White House, could be a thrill, but it was also a serious burden ... Hannity chose this life, so no one felt sorry for him, but the stress took its toll. 'Hannity would tell you, off-off-off the record, that Trump is a batshit crazy person,' one of his associates said. Another friend concurred: "Hannity has said to me more than once, 'he's crazy.'" Brian Stelter, with a preview of his new book Hoax, in Vanity Fair: Fox News Staffers Feel Trapped in the Trump Cult. (So does the rest of America...)

+ The New Yorker: What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results? "Trump's threats about rejecting the results come November are not idle. In 2016, Trump disputed the results of an election he won."


Insurance Quotes

Texas Monthly: The Wildest Insurance Fraud Scheme Texas Has Ever Seen. "He'd never planned to become an international arms dealer, he said. The sales just snowballed. 'The deals get bigger and the stakes get higher,' he said, 'and before you realize it, you've got a load of freshly overhauled attack helicopters getting snuck out of Marseille in the middle of the night going to Chad.'" (We've all been there...)


Boom Cycle

"Someone has spray-painted the words 'My government did this' on a concrete highway barrier close to ground zero at the Beirut port. No one now expects anything to get better. The only real question seems to be: How much worse can it get?" Broken Glass, Blood, and Anguish: Beirut After the Blast.


Alexander vs The Great

"Opposition supporters in Belarus have held a mass rally in the capital Minsk, two weeks after a disputed election gave President Alexander Lukashenko another term in office.
Correspondents in the city said tens of thousands filled the central square despite a heavy police presence." Belarus opposition holds mass rally in Minsk despite ban.

+ Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: The 22-Year-Old Blogger Behind Protests in Belarus. "How did everyone know exactly what to do? The answer, improbably, is a 22-year-old blogger named Stsiapan Sviatlou, who lives outside the country and runs a channel called Nexta Live on the encrypted messaging app Telegram."


Sliding Into Your DMV

"The California Department of Motor Vehicles is selling drivers' data to private investigators and bail bondsmen, according to an internal DMV document obtained by Motherboard. The document in all lists nearly 98,000 entities that have had access to some form of DMV data, including trucking companies and insurance firms." Vice: California DMV Is Selling Drivers' Data to Private Investigators. (Weird, I've always had great experiences with the DMV...)


Lock Arm Monster

"And it was at that point that a lot of people started gathering and sort of forming this chain." Durdle Door beach rescue: Human chain saved man's life.


Bottom of the News

"Based on data from Airbnb, these are the remote homes that made it onto most people's wishlists. It's easy to see why—each property promises seclusion, breathtaking views, and plenty of adventure right from your doorstep." Outside: The Most-Wishlisted Off-the-Grid Airbnbs in the US. Grid Pro Go!

+ ‘I'm Not Worried': Gamblers Pack Casino Surrounded by Raging Wildfires and COVID-19.

+ Ladies and Gentleman, this year's Cat Video Festival is free and streaming. (I'm old enough to remember when the whole internet was a cat video festival.)