Friday, September 18th, 2020


Going Nowhere Fast

"It's probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history. People clearly miss travel and the experience of flying. If the demand is there, we'll definitely look at doing more of these scenic flights while we all wait for borders to open." International travel from Asia has plunged. But that doesn't mean people aren't boarding planes headed for other countries. It just means they don't land there. Reuters: Travellers snap up Asian airlines' scenic flights to nowhere. Non voyage!

+ NYT: Cruise Ships Can't Sail. But the Behemoth Vessels Are Still a Draw. "What a beauty, what a sight," one man shouted, as he scuttled to the front of the boat to take a closer look. (Editor's note: Indeed!) "They're alive, they're breathing," said another, pointing to the plumes of smoke visible through his binoculars. (Editor's note: The size, the majesty!) "Absolutely stunning," said a woman, her hand resting on her heart. "I just can't wait to hop back on." (Editor's note: OK, no.)


Stamp Out Crime

"The states have demonstrated that the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service. They have also demonstrated that this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states' ability to administer the 2020 general election." So said Federal Judge Stanley A. Bastian as he blocked USPS operational changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns.

+ "A Michigan court made a major change to the state's election rules on Friday, ruling that ballots sent before Election Day should count even if they're not received until days afterward." Ballots counting? Revolutionary idea!

+ Trump's war on mail-in voting suffers setback in Pennsylvania.

+ Politico: "President Donald Trump has spent $20 million of his political war chest to stop it. He riffs about it at rallies. He tweets relentlessly about it. Yet six months into a crusade to stop universal mail-in voting, Trump hasn't yet prevented a single state from sending voters the unsolicited ballots he claims, with minimal evidence, are ripe for fraud."

+ Some people aren't waiting for the mail... WaPo: On the first day of early voting, Virginians wait up to four hours to cast ballots. (I've been lined up for 3 years.)


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: I was determined not to like Ted Lasso, because I'm a dark, terrible person who doesn't watch light, positive comedies. But dammit, it roped me in!

+ What to Doc: There are plenty of things The Social Dilemma leaves out in its look at social media tech. But what it leaves in is very much worth watching (and be sure to include your kids).

+ What to Book: As we've seen, the future can arrive sooner than we thought. Be prepared with these insights from Mauro F. Guillen: 2030: How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything. This is a really interesting book and it reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Saturday Night Fever.


Swept Under the Rug

"Seventy-two percent of them reported that they had lost all of their clients by the first week of April, according to a survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The fortunate had employers who continued to pay them. The unlucky called or texted their employers and heard nothing back. They weren't laid off so much as ghosted, en masse." NYT: Housekeepers Face a Disaster Generations in the Making. You'll feel like you need to be disinfected after reading the opening anecdote in this article.


Troye Vey!

"Troye, who served as Vice-President Mike Pence's adviser for homeland security until late July, has witnessed the Administration's response to the crisis, as Pence's top aide on the White House coronavirus task force. She had seen Trump rant in private about Fox News coverage as his public-health advisers desperately tried to get him to focus on a disease that has now killed some two hundred thousand Americans. She had decided that Trump was lying to the American public about the disease, and that "words matter, especially when you're the President of the United States," and that it was time to speak out. She was nervous and scared and worried for her family and her career. But she plunged ahead anyway." The New Yorker: "It Was All About the Election": The Ex-White House Aide Olivia Troye on Trump's Narcissistic Mishandling of COVID-19. (You know who could protect Olivia Troye from the wrath of Trumpists? Other task force members who come forward. They could protect thousands of lives as well...)

+ NYT: CDC Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists' Objections.

+ Two Pharma Companies Released Their Coronavirus Vaccine Blueprints In A Bid To Regain Public Trust. (Anyone want to hazard a guess at who made them lose that public trust?)

+ Here's a bummer. We're more 7-8 months into this crisis, and we still can't make nearly enough N95 masks.


It Can Happen Here

"V-Dem's findings are bracing: The United States is undergoing 'substantial autocratization' — defined as the loss of democratic traits — that has accelerated precipitously under President Trump. This is particularly alarming in light of what the group's historic data show: Only 1 in 5 democracies that start down this path are able to reverse the damage before succumbing to full-blown autocracy." WaPo: The United States is backsliding into autocracy under Trump, scholars warn.


Panhandle Bars

"'I was very worried. He didn't sound well at all,' Garcia says. She told her husband to let a supervisor know how sick he was. 'It's not worth it,' he responded. 'Let me tell you it will be in vain. They don't give me a pill or anything.' Five days into his quarantine, on July 19, Galvan could hardly breathe or speak when Garcia called, but he was comforted by her voice. 'Talk to me, talk to me,' he said. 'I need to be listening to you because it gives me strength to continue fighting everything that I'm suffering here.' It was the last time Garcia spoke to her husband. He died the morning of July 20." Texas Observer: Death in Dalhart. "After a farmworker in the rural Texas Panhandle died of complications from COVID-19, his family and federal investigators want answers." First they let the guy die. Then, "to add insult to injury, Larsen Farms' office manager told Galvan's family the cost of returning his remains would be $2,500 at the family's expense."


Tik Tok Toe

"Friday's news combines several different strands of politics, policy, and realpolitik: legitimate concerns about China's ability to exert influence in the US via consumer technology; American electoral politics; and links between US tech executives and investors with the White House. But the top line is straightforward: The Trump administration gets to say it is getting tough with China by moving to shut down one important Chinese-owned app in the US — while keeping another important Chinese-owned app, with ties to Trump supporters, running through the fall." Trump moves to shut down WeChat in the US. But TikTok will live until after the election. (I have only one thing in common with Donald Trump: We've both been threatening to shut off Tik Tok for months and neither of us ever actually will.)


Chuck Broiled

"Chuck E. Cheese wants to spend more than $2 million to destroy more than seven billion prize tickets, which it says is enough tickets to fill approximately 65 forty-foot cargo shipping containers ... Chuck E. Cheese wants them destroyed because the money it would cost to destroy the tickets is far cheaper than the $9 million that it would cost the pizza chain if the tickets ended up in the hands of the general public and were redeemed for prizes." (I'm sure the Trump administration has a ballot shredder that could beat that price.)


Feel Good Friday

Remember how NextDraft sold Change for Twenty shirts and matched the prices of the shirts with donations to Donor's Choose? Well, the first $25K has been given to 72 projects that will impact more than 7,600 students. Here are the details.

+ Keen is rolling out face mask vending machines. (Now we just need a rubber glove machine so we can touch them...)

+ Toronto boy who loves garbage trucks gets big surprise on 3rd birthday.

+ Not all industries are shedding jobs. We need more Shofar blowers.

+ Jacinda Ardern pledges 100% renewable energy generation in New Zealand by 2030. (Anyone else getting tired of New Zealand trolling us?)

+ Dave Grohl Writes Theme Song for 10-Year-Old Drummer Nandi Bushell. (The Grohl/Bushell world tour is going to be the hottest post pandemic ticket.)

+ Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston reunite in an all-star virtual table read of Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

+ All these years, Paris Hilton was just pretending to be stupid. (Same.)