Thursday, September 10th, 2020


Walking in the Drive Thru

Many of us are lucky enough to be experiencing the version of the pandemic where you complain about being stuck in the house with your Zoom-schooling kids, try out new hobbies like baking and gardening, and where, as long as you social distance, the biggest risk to your health comes from banging your head against the wall as you read the news. Frontline's latest episode, Growing Up Poor in America tracks kids from three Ohio families experiencing the other pandemic. The one where you can't afford to have your car repaired, so you have to walk between vehicles in the carpool line picking up a school Chromebook, or push your baby sister in her stroller through the McDonald's drive-thru on a day they're providing free nuggets to kids who no longer have access to school lunches. There's a bottomless pit of despair in so many American households. Yes, it's brutal those families can't find any inspiration from the top. But we—and this is a note to self as much as anything—spend too much time angry at the rabid MAGA rally attendees and their imbecilic hero, and not enough time considering and supporting average Americans. We can't just close our eyes and ignore our country's open wound. Trump's lack of empathy mustn't squash ours.

+ NPR: Pandemic Financially Imperils Nearly Half Of American Households.

+ Politico: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles.


Spiral Notebook

"To stop that spread, this country could use measures that other nations did, to great effect: close nonessential businesses and spaces that allow crowds to congregate indoors; improve ventilation; encourage mask use; test widely to identify contagious people; trace their contacts; help them isolate themselves; and provide a social safety net so that people can protect others without sacrificing their livelihood. None of these other nations did everything, but all did enough things right—and did them simultaneously. By contrast..." Ed Yong in The Atlantic: America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral. (It feels more like we're being kicked end over end.)


Red Dawn

It used to be light during the day in California. It used to be wet this time of year in Oregon and Washington. But that was in the years BCC. Before Climate Change. Slate: The Western U.S. Is Not OK. (And with both peak fire and peak hurricane season ahead of us, neither is the Eastern U.S.)

+ Fires without precedent rage in usually cool, wet Northwest.

+ "What's remarkable is that there's so many fires. Even as someone whose job is to understand what's happening, it's really hard to keep up." More than 85 significant fires are burning across the west, where a record 2.5m acres have been destroyed.

+ "I consider myself fortunate to have never seen one from less than a dozen or so miles away. But for those who encounter them — or have to live in their proximity, and grapple with the long-term health ramifications — it is hell on earth." Charlie Warzel in the NYT: I Need You to Care That Our Country Is on Fire.

+ Kottke: The Apocalyptic Red Western Skies Caused by Climate Change-Fueled Wildfires.



"Murphy says the acting secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf, told him twice — once in May and again in July — to withhold reporting on potential Russian threats to the election because it cast the president in a bad light. Murphy says he was also told to emphasize potential threats from China and Iran. Murphy says Wolf told him these instructions came from White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien." Whistleblower Alleges DHS Told Him To Stop Reporting On Russia Threat. (These reports go to law enforcement agencies tasked with doing something about them. If proven, this action alone would be impeachable in the country formerly known as America.)

+ "A Trump administration appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prevent Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, from speaking about the risks that coronavirus poses to children." Politico: Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci.

+ As we know from the Woodward tapes, the President isn't going to let a couple deaths (or a couple hundred thousand of them) hurt his re-election prospects. Here's my take on the Woodward revelations from yesterday's edition. All the President's Mendacity. Plus, 5 Takeaways From ‘Rage,' Bob Woodward's New Book About Trump. And, "I saved his ass..." Trump brags about sticking up for Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder.


Knee Highs

In football, which kicks off tonight, momentum is everything. The same is true in politics. WaPo checks the scoreboard: "While athlete activism promises to take center stage this week — starting with Thursday's opener in Kansas City, Mo., and continuing through the full slate of NFL games this weekend — 56 percent of Americans now say it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality; 42 percent say it is not appropriate. Despite cries for athletes to "stick to sports," particularly from conservative pundits and politicians, a 62 percent majority of Americans say professional athletes should use their platforms to express their views on national issues, including over 8 in 10 Black Americans and 7 in 10 adults under age 50."


Deforest Gumption

Axios: World's wildlife populations plunge 68% in 46 years. "As humanity's footprint expands into once-wild places, we're devastating species populations. But we're also exacerbating climate change and increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19." (We're all in this together...)


QAnon, and On and On and On

"In more than seven dozen interviews conducted in Wisconsin in early September, from the suburbs around Milwaukee to the scarred streets of Kenosha in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, about 1 in 5 voters volunteered ideas that veered into the realm of conspiracy theory, ranging from QAnon to the notion that COVID-19 is a hoax. Two women in Ozaukee County calmly informed me that an evil cabal operates tunnels under the U.S. in order to rape and torture children and drink their blood." Time: How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy.


Going Out on a Limb

"In North Sumatra, students climb to the tops of tall trees a mile from their mountain village. Perched on branches high above the ground, they hope for a cell signal strong enough to complete their assignments. Around the globe, including in some of the world's wealthiest countries, educators are struggling with how to best make distance learning viable during the pandemic. But in poorer countries like Indonesia, the challenge is particularly difficult." NYT: When Learning Is Really Remote.


Tooth Delay

"Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba met a grisly end after his assassination in 1961: His body was dismembered and dissolved with acid in an apparent effort to keep any grave from becoming a pilgrimage site. Then, the story goes that a tooth was pulled from his corpse during the effort in the middle of the night. And even that was taken from Congo, brought home to colonizer Belgium by a man whose family then apparently kept it for more than half a century." Six decades later, Belgium will return the tooth to the family of slain Congolese icon.


Bottom of the News

"It was an old Halloween postcard that was possibly lost in the mail. 'I start looking at it and I'm like, ‘Okay, it's been through some wear and tear.' You can see just how old it is. There's a George Washington one-cent stamp in the corner." Postcard stamped in 1920 delivered 100 years later. (That's it. I'm voting in person.)

+ A Miami student house party gets shut down by police. And then...

Officer: I've never seen this before. There's an input on the computer that you tested positive for COVID.
Student: Yes.
Officer: When was this?
Student: This was a week ago.
Officer: Are you supposed to be quarantining?
Student: Yeah. That's why I'm at my house.
Officer: So you have other people here, and you're positive for COVID?
Student: I mean…
Officer: We're trying to keep this town open.
Student: I know. That's why I'm staying home.