Thursday, October 1st, 2020



America is not a failed state. But it is in a vegetative state, largely because the nation is being overwhelmed by disinformation, false marketing, and a constant drumbeat of outright lies. And this attack on democratic norms seems to be touching everything as the election approaches. Example: "The Agriculture Department last week began mandating that millions of boxes of surplus food for needy families include a letter from President Donald Trump claiming credit for the program." (Trump branded vegetables. I've seen it all.) Hopefully the boxes contain plenty of fiber, because it's going to take that and more to push four years of this shit out of our system of government.

+ "Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out." NYT: Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver' of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump. And these deadly lies are never-ending. Trump has in fact almost never said anything true about the virus. That certainly includes his debate night vaccine claims: Moderna CEO says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until spring of next year.

+ The lies are backed up by acts that fly in the unmasked face of reality, and his own administration's guidance. WaPo: Trump plans big Wisconsin rallies despite White House task force calls for ‘maximal' social distancing in the state.

+ However long it takes to get through the Covid 19 era, the end of that crisis will come a lot sooner than the end of the crisis caused by the Trumpist attacks on the core principles of democracy, especially voting. "As the 2020 presidential election nears, it is becoming clear that the Trump administration and the Republican Party are not just looking at but heavily investing in the largely nonexistent problem of voter fraud." NYT Mag: The Attack on Voting.

+ "Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday that President Donald Trump is 'aiding and abetting' Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to sow doubt about the American electoral system." (One would be hard-pressed to name a Putin goal that Trump is not aiding.)

+ WaPo: As Kim wooed Trump with ‘love letters,' he kept building his nuclear capability. Donald Trump is the second greatest thing ever to happen to despots and dictators like Kim and Putin. The greatest is that, even after all the damage he's done to America, tens of millions of our citizens still look at him and see a president.


Super Sizing Up

"In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19 almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated, indoor environments where many people congregate over time—weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such—especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks." In The Atlantic, the excellent Zeynep Tufekci explains the key factors that lead to coronavirus outbreaks. This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic.

+ Sadly, the virus has resurged in many places around the world, including Italy. Here's the latest.


Right Before Our Eyes

"When Trump warned of an invasion by undocumented immigrants, Rhodes traveled to the southern border with an Oath Keepers patrol. He sent members to "protect" Trump supporters from the protesters at his rallies and appeared in the VIP section at one of them, standing in the front row in a black Oath Keepers shirt. When Trump warned of the potential for civil war at the start of the impeachment inquiry last fall, Rhodes voiced his assent on Twitter. 'This is the truth,' he wrote. 'This is where we are.'" Mike Giglio in The Atlantic with a story meant for next month, but that took on greater urgency following the debate. A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans.


There’s Not an App. for That

"For many here, it's an increasingly foreign America that they explain with suspicion, anger and occasionally conspiracy theories. The result: At a time when the country is bitterly torn and crises are piling up faster than ever, the feeling of isolation in this corner of Ohio is more profound than ever." AP: In Appalachia, people watch COVID-19, race issues from afar. (You may not agree with the political expression of their anger and despair, but don't deny the anger and despair. There's already a shortage of empathy in America.)


Fat Chance

"Being overweight is linked to an increased risk for premature death, but which part of the body carries the added fat could make a big difference. Extra weight in some places may actually lower the risk." NYT: Where You Carry Body Fat May Affect How Long You Live. (The key is to have someone else carry your fat for you. It's like Uber for cellulite.)


Give and Stay

"I watched Chris Paul systematically explore every possible angle of a jab-step, like a basketball scientist. I watched Dwight Howard dunk so hard it bent the rim, leading to a long delay involving workmen on ladders. But they fixed it, of course, and the game started right back up. Basketball was eternal. Covid couldn't touch it. Politics couldn't touch it. The N.B.A. bubble, against all odds, had turned out to be indestructible." Sam Anderson in the NYT: What I Learned Inside the N.B.A. Bubble. (One day someone should report on the Pell Family Bubble. It has all the screaming of Disneyworld, without any of the rides...)


A Light Bulb Goes Off

"The worst economic crisis in more than a generation has thrust potentially millions of Americans across the country into a similar, sudden peril: Cash-strapped, and in some cases still unemployed, they have fallen far behind on their electricity, water and gas bills, staring down the prospect of potential utility shut-offs and fast-growing debts they may never be able to repay." And the disconnection bans are being lifted. WaPo: Millions of Americans risk losing power and water as massive, unpaid utility bills pile up.


Clean Up in All Aisles

Aisle be seeing you, but not in all the old familiar places. FastCo: Walmart's new store design proves browsing is dead. (Web browsing killed it.)


There Musk Be Some Misunderstanding

Elon Musk told Kara Swisher that he would "not take a Covid-19 vaccine when one becomes available, and declined to say whether he feels a duty to pay employees who want to stay home to avoid contracting the virus. 'I'm not at risk for Covid, nor are my kids.'" Even if that were true, the point of being careful - even if you're relatively young and healthy - is to avoid spreading it to others who it will kill. It's endlessly remarkable that some people can't understand this simple fact.


Bottom of the News

"The rolls used in Subway's hot sandwiches contain too much sugar to be considered bread, according to Ireland's Supreme Court."

+ The only enjoyable version of the debate is the Japanese translators' attempt to keep up with the interruptions. (Yes, the world watches this stuff. Sadly.)

+ Borat is coming back.