American Fall

I'm a Fall person. I love cool weather and fog. My production goes up when it gets dark earlier. I am my best self in a windbreaker. This is my season. But not this year. This year, the crisp air is ominous, blowing with impending doom. The Covid winter is coming and we're not ready. Actually, we're worse than not ready. We have a political party determined to fight democracy instead of fighting the virus. We have an administration refusing to work with its replacement, even on issues related to vaccine distribution; in a sad effort to cling to power and avoid making the boss so mad that he bursts out of his strait jacket. We have a president who has disengaged from the coronavirus fight at its most urgent moment. And, truth be told, we're probably better off because he's disengaged. Nothing beats nothing plus lies plus superspreader events. Think I'm exaggerating? WaPo: More than 130 Secret Service officers are said to be infected with coronavirus or quarantining in wake of Trump's campaign travel. They have no choice but to take ridiculous risks. You do. Stay safe. Don't be a fall guy.

+ Eight days after the U.S. hit 100,000 cases in a day for the first time, the number topped 160,000 on Thursday.

+ WaPo: Catastrophic lack of hospital beds in Upper Midwest as coronavirus cases surge.

+ "A group of emergency physicians in Montana is pleading with their community to follow Covid-19 restrictions, warning that a surge in cases and dwindling hospital capacity in Ravalli County has the community 'on the brink of disaster.'"

+ In North Dakota, it's so bad that the governor announced COVID-positive nurses can stay at work.

+ "There is already no avoiding the deaths that will follow this month's rise in coronavirus infections. But the trends that led to that rise may very well continue and intensify. The rural states that have lost control of the virus may hold to their perilous trajectories; the first-wave epicenters fighting to keep it suppressed may grow overwhelmed as the weather cools. In this bleak scenario, millions more Americans—in states big and small, red and blue—will contract the virus, and hundreds of thousands will die. We will experience the deadliest months in modern American history." Dhruv Khullar in The New Yorker: The Pandemic's Winter Surge Is Here.

+ "In the imminent future, patients will start to die because there simply aren't enough people to care for them. Doctors and nurses will burn out. The most precious resource the U.S. health-care system has in the struggle against COVID-19 isn't some miracle drug. It's the expertise of its health-care workers—and they are exhausted." Ed Yong in The Atlantic: More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can't go on like this. (Think you're disgusted by the denialism and mismanagement in Washington? Imagine how these folks feel.)

+ And meanwhile, on the unity front: "President-elect Joe Biden says he'll personally call red state governors and persuade them to impose mask mandates to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. Their early response: Don't waste your time."


In Secure

"The statement late Thursday by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency amounted to the most direct repudiation to date of Trump's efforts to undermine the integrity of the contest, and echoed repeated assertions by election experts and state officials." Repudiating Trump, officials say election 'most secure in American history.'" (Expect tweets, tantrums, and firings.)

+ "The shocking lack of specifics, which Trump's critics mock as laughably unserious for something so consequential, is not a deficiency. It is the feature of his strategy." Trump's Crazy and Confoundingly Successful Conspiracy Theory.

+ The New Yorker: Is This a Coup, or Just Another Trump Con? It's both. And it's also a conspiracy. Don't forget those who are perpetrating it.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Every year, my daughter's school has a great bookfair. My wife is on the fiction picking committee, I'm on the non-fiction, and there are always tables and tables of must-reads. This year, of course, the event has moved online. Bummer for us. But good news for your nightstand. Check Out Virtual Book Fair (bonus, the books all get fulfilled by indie bookstores via Bookshop).

+ What to Hear: I think you'll find that Nathaniel Rateliff's solo effort, And It's Still Alright, will create exactly the vibe you're looking for this weekend.

+ What to Wear: People are looking fly, swag, dope, and quite comely in their Scranton Comes Alive and Let There Be Light NextDraft T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. Check out the store to score.


Headless Courseman

"As false claims declaring that Joe Biden isn't the president-elect flourish on his platform, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Thursday that the Democratic nominee 'is going to be our next president.'" During the same meeting, Zuck explained that "Steve Bannon had not violated enough of the company's policies to justify his suspension when he urged the beheading of two senior U.S. officials." Maybe the company needs more policies? (I suppose it's only fair that a king would be the one to decide matters related to beheadings.)


Tok Around the Clock

"It was up to Attorney General William Barr to enforce the president's order, but that did not happen. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on why the Trump administration appeared to be backing away from its pressure campaign on TikTok. That means no interruption for the millions of Americans who turn to the app for mostly playful and comedic short-form videos, which have become especially popular during the pandemic." The missed deadline is understandable. Destroying democracy is a full time job. It also turns out that if you've been waiting for the government to help curb your kid's TikTok habit, it's time for plan b.


Blitz for Brains

If you've always wanted to be a US Senator, but you've worried about not knowing the basics of government and history, stop worrying. Alabama's Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville is doing just fine, and he doesn't know the three branches of government and thinks we fought WWII to defeat socialism.

+ And incoming House member (and QAnon aficionado) Marjorie Taylor Greene is off to a predictable start: "Our first session of New Member Orientation covered COVID in Congress. Masks, masks, masks.... I proudly told my freshman class that masks are oppressive. In GA, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work, and school without masks. My body, my choice."


My Body, Your Choice

While Marjorie Taylor Greene and those of her ilk focus on their own freedoms, here's a reminder that personal choice can have broader implications. LA Times: "If you want to know why public health officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic will get as the holiday season unfolds, consider what happened after a single, smallish wedding reception that took place this summer in rural Maine. Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died. None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party."


Ready For Your Closeup

The contest 'celebrates close-up, macro, and micro photography,' among seven separate categories. Here are the Winners of Close-Up Photographer of the Year.


It’s a Story About Bupkis

"Three parents of children attending Milton, which is switching to fully indoor, in-person classes next week, said the withdrawal came after parents raised concerns that Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and top aide, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and also a top aide, were seen at events not complying with the coronavirus protocols that Milton demanded of its parents." Javanka won't leave the White House. But their kids got kicked out of a DC Jewish school because their parents weren't following coronavirus safety protocols. (Forget draining the swamp. Let's drain the Mikveh.)


Feel Good Friday

"His carved-from-a-boulder face and 6'8'' frame seem both too big and too good for the jaded lens of cable news. Like several of his fellow local elected officials also thrust into the cable-TV maw, Fetterman's position as an honest, civic-minded politician clashes with the sputtering churn of Key Race Alerts and Breaking News: Tweets. His presence reminds us that American politics were built—and kept afloat, even during these past four years—by people who simply care about doing the right thing." And looking good while doing it. GQ: Pennsylvania's Carhartt-Wearing Lieutenant Governor Has Our Vote.

+ Miami Marlins hire Kim Ng as MLB's first female general manager.

+ Vaccine alliance secures $2 billion to fund COVID shots for poor nations.

+ If you missed it the first time around, the NYT will catch you up with Dave Grohl, 10-Year-Old Nandi Bushell and One Very Epic Drum Battle.

+ Elise Wortley is replicating the achievements of historical female adventurers, wearing only the gear that would have been available to them at the time. (I'm recreating the behavior of my childhood while wearing essentially the same outfit I wore then.)

+ These interview outtakes from Leta Powell Drake were going around the internet this week. Quite fun.

+ NYT: A Sick Swan Is Saved After a 23-Mile Odyssey by Foot, Car and Subway.

+ China congratulates Joe Biden on being elected US president, says "we respect the choice of the American people." At least somebody does!