Monday, October 12th, 2020


American Irrationalism

As we close in on the most anticipated election of a lifetime, it's worth noting that we're not voting on the same thing, or even in the same reality. The great American disconnect, from each other and in some cases from reality, is the wildcard in this election, and sadly, beyond. "My phone was filling with news: news about wildfires engulfing the West Coast; news about Trump reportedly calling fallen soldiers 'losers' and 'suckers'; news about the death toll from COVID-19 passing 200,000; news of Trump's admitting to journalist Bob Woodward on tape that he had intentionally downplayed the virus, purportedly to avoid causing a panic. But almost nobody seemed to be talking about these headlines, and when I asked about them, people often didn't believe them or didn't care." Time's Charlotte Alter: How a Road Trip Through America's Battlegrounds Revealed a Nation Plagued by Misinformation. "Much of the time, I got back into my white Ford rental with a pit in my stomach. Conspiracy theories like QAnon–the perverse delusion that Trump is the final defense against a 'deep state' cabal of Democrats and Hollywood elite who traffic and rape children–kept cropping up in my conversations. Two women in Cedarburg, Wis., told me the 'cabal' was running tunnels under the U.S. to traffic children so elites could torture them and drink their blood. When I checked into an airport hotel in Kalamazoo, Mich., the night manager made small talk about politicians running a pedophile ring as he directed me to the elevator." This is the American virus that scares me the most.


Laptop of the Line

At my daughter's school, where Zoom learning is still the norm, students are required to use the school-issued Chromebooks even though most families have multiple computers in their household. This is in contrast to districts where many families have no computers, and the schools can't make up the difference because of the fierce competition for laptops. NYT: The Digital Divide Starts With a Laptop Shortage. In a crisis, the market doesn't work without government leadership. This story provides a perfect example.


Court Packing in Progress

Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing opened with pretty clear battle lines about the timing of the hearings so close to the election, the impending threat to health care (which is a broader election theme), and of course, some idiotic tweets from Trump that were quickly discounted, even by his own party. Here's the latest from CNN.

+ Sen. Mike Lee, Recently Infected With Coronavirus, Attends Confirmation Hearing. (And spoke without a mask.)

+ Lindsey Graham Insists Amy Coney Barrett Hearing Is ‘Safe' After Refusing to Take COVID Test.

+ WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refuses to talk to reporters without his mask off. (Wanton idiocy is Covid-20.)


Dude Swings

"I've struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust. My own thinking has evolved as I've seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech." So said Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook announced that it would ban content that denies or distorts the Holocaust. I welcome the move, even though it's woefully late. But the comments above point to the real story. The rules for a massive online nationstate with immeasurable influence are being made according the whims of a boy king.


Be Afraid

"There was never any goodbye. He was just gone. It's like the world swallowed him up. We could only have 10 people at the funeral, and I didn't make that list. I break down sometimes, but mostly I'm empty. Am I glad to be alive? I don't know. I don't know how to answer that. There's no relief. This virus, I can't escape it. It's torn up our family. It's all over my Facebook. It's the election. It's Trump. It's what I keep thinking about. How many people would have gotten sick if I'd never hosted that weekend? One? Maybe two? The grief comes in waves, but that guilt just sits." Eli Saslow's as-told-to stories in WaPo are some of the pandemic's must read content. Tony Green, on dismissing, denying, contracting and spreading the coronavirus: ‘What are we so afraid of?'.


Mike Checked

"The order would have been the toughest federal mandate to date aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which continues to infect more than 40,000 Americans a day. The officials said that it was drafted under the agency's 'quarantine powers' and that it had the support of the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, but the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, declined to even discuss it." NYT: White House Blocked C.D.C. From Requiring Masks on Public Transportation. "The order would have mandated that both passengers and employees wear face coverings on planes, trains, buses and subways and in airports, stations and depots." Why? (Try coming up with an answer to that question that isn't horrific.)


Fire in the Whole

Yesterday, I was driving my kids home from an outdoor, socially-distanced hangout at Stinson beach. And while we traveled the curvy road around Mt Tam, I kept thinking to myself, "Man, all these trees so close together seems dangerous." As Dave Eggers much more eloquently explains in The New Yorker, those are the kinds of thoughts Californians are having these days. All That Could Burn:
Life as a Californian during the 2020 fire season
. "Driving through this densely wooded land parched by drought, it's impossible not to think about it burning. In California, everywhere we go, we look for risk. Underbrush, dead trees, dry leaves on roofs and in gutters. That could burn, we find ourselves saying. All that could burn."



"We found a way to play through a pandemic, keep everyone safe and put a spotlight on these critically important [social justice] issues. For that, every team deserves to be celebrated." So said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. While every team will be celebrated, one team (and one person) will be celebrated more than others. ESPN: How LeBron James and the Lakers fought heartbreak to win the NBA Finals.


Hammer Time

"Auctions are everywhere in today's economy. They determine how Google sells ads, what price consumers end up paying for electricity, and the way governments sell off the public airwaves to telecom companies and broadcasters. For helping make auctions run more efficiently, two Americans on Monday won the Nobel prize for economics." Both Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson are professors at Stanford. And still, I congratulate them.


Bottom of the News

"Nichols Electronics may not be a large corporatized monopoly. But since it controls the music box market, it also has a near-unilateral sway over which songs reverberate through neighborhoods across the country." The company that has a monopoly on ice cream truck music.

+ "As White explained on Instagram, using a guitar Van Halen designed seemed like a better tribute than to insult "the man's talent by trying to play one of his songs.'" Jack White Was the Perfect Musical Guest for This Week's Saturday Night Live. (The drummer banging on a kit that faced away from him and the bassist's John Prine shirt were nice touches as well. Damn, I miss live music.)