Wednesday, November 25th, 2020


Bird Watchers

Here's how I'm thinking about this Thanksgiving: You're either close to someone already lost to Covid-19, or you're thankful as hell you're not—and you express that gratitude by keeping yourself and others safe. It's not like you can't get as bloated as you do every year and still argue with your relatives on Zoom. If it hadn't been for the early success of some new-fangled vaccines, I'd argue that the mute button is humankind's greatest invention of 2020. (And Zoom is removing their time caps for the free version of the app, so you'll have all the time you need to get the last word in.) If you look at the news (or the roads or the airports), it looks like everyone is out and about as usual. But the truth is that many Americans are heeding the warnings and doing the right thing. NYT Upshot has a detailed map indicating what percentage of people plan to do Thanksgiving with someone outside their family. It would be interesting to overlay this map with voting patterns or even general IQ.

+ "What's especially scary about this much-dreaded third wave, with record-breaking numbers of people being diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19, is that it will likely get much worse, as temperatures dip and holiday travel increases over the next few weeks." Buzzfeed: The US Is About To Hit Its Pivotal Pandemic Moment.

+ "The U.S. could have hundreds of thousands of fewer births next year than it would have in the absence of a pandemic." The Atlantic: Here Comes the COVID-19 Baby Bust. (Well, this gives you something else to do at home over the holiday weekend...)

+ Scheduling note: I'll play it by ear this weekend, but will likely take days off to observe Thanksgiving and the Cal Stanford Big Game (not listed in order of importance. Go Bears.)


Flynn Stone Free

In today's least surprising news, Trump has pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn. "Trump's pardon of Flynn marks a full embrace of the retired general he had ousted from the White House after only 22 days on the job — and a final salvo against the Russia investigation that shadowed the first half of his term in office." I doubt this will be the last salvo related to anything.

+ Trump also pardoned a turkey yesterday. (For a second, I thought he was just gonna pardon the white meat.)


Michigan Meshugas

"In the end, it wasn't a senator or a judge or a general who stood up to the leader of the free world. There was no dramatic, made-for-Hollywood collision of cosmic egos. Rather, the death knell of Trump's presidency was sounded by a baby-faced lawyer, looking over his glasses on a grainy Zoom feed on a gloomy Monday afternoon, reading from a statement that reflected a courage and moral clarity that has gone AWOL from his party, pleading with the tens of thousands of people watching online to understand that some lines can never be uncrossed." Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes. Pressuring those in charge not to certify that vote was a craven affront to democracy. But the pressure came, all the way from the top. Aaron Van Langevelde wasn't having any of it. "Van Langevelde is a Republican. He works for Republicans in the Statehouse. He gives legal guidance to advance Republican causes and win Republican campaigns. As a Republican, his mandate for Monday's hearing—handed down from the state party chair, the national party chair and the president himself—was straightforward." Tim Alberta with a must-read in Politico Magazine: The Inside Story of Michigan's Fake Voter Fraud Scandal. A political party was attempting to shred democracy to make its pathetic leader feel better. One person prevented it from happening. That's too thin a margin for error.

+ Amy Davidson in The New Yorker: Trump and a Lesson in How Coups Fail.

+ Alexander Burns in the NYT: Trump Stress-Tested the Election System, and the Cracks Showed. (I really hope someone is keeping a record of all the participants in this sick charade. We should be able to keep a list, check it twice, and forever shun those who were naughty not nice.)


Sans Diego

"Maradona inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 when as captain he displayed a level of skill, creativity, strength and desire arguably not seen before or since. In the 2-1 quarter-final victory over England he also scored perhaps the greatest goal of all time, a match in which the forward also showed his darker, mischievous side with the infamous Hand of God." Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, dies aged 60.

+ Here's a short video on the most infamous goal in soccer history. It ties in nicely for those watching season 4 of The Crown.

+ And here's what some call the goal of the century, with Víctor Hugo Morales on the call.


Humanity is Coming

"This is the moment when we need to steel our spines, redouble our efforts and recommit ourselves to this fight ... We're all in this together. It sounds trite to say, but we're all in this together." (Editor's note: It doesn't sound trite. It sounds true.) Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving eve address. "I know that this time of year can be especially difficult. Believe me, I know. I remember that first Thanksgiving. The empty chair, the silence. Takes your breath away."


Power Point

"The mishandling of the pandemic is just the latest in a string of lapses in basic competence that have called into question U.S. capabilities among both long-standing allies and countries whose partnership Washington may seek in the years to come. A brand once synonymous with the world-changing creations of Steve Jobs, with feats of strength and ingenuity such as the Berlin airlift and the moon landing, and with the opportunity represented by the Statue of Liberty now projects chaos, polarization, and dysfunction." Samantha Power on America's Advantage and Biden's Chance.

+ If you want a good weekend read (and a reminder of the hard work being done by so many Americans behind the scenes), I recommend Power's The Education of an Idealist.


The Kids Are Alright

"At many colleges and universities, from underfunded institutions to top-tier private colleges, many students have found themselves unable to meet basic needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Financial insecurity, previously accelerated by rising tuition costs and living expenses, has become even more acute because of the closure of campuses, loss of jobs and slashing of budgets. In response, across the country, students have created mutual aid networks." NYT: How College Students Are Helping Each Other Survive. The bad stuff makes the news. But there is so much good stuff happening during this pandemic, it sometimes makes we want to cry. (But I won't because that would be bad for the brand.)


Metal Detected

"From a helicopter, officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety spotted a large metal monolith — a single block of metal — last week. It was sitting in Utah's Red Rock Country in the southeast. Officials have no idea how or when it got there — or who might have placed it. 'That's been about the strangest thing that I've come across out there in all my years of flying,' helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL TV." Large Metal Monolith Mysteriously Appears In Remote Region Of Utah's Red Rock Country.

+ People have already located the general whereabouts of the object using Google Earth. It will be about a week before some naked dudes on shrooms need to be rescued.


Room With Some Views

"The account, which is run by Claude Taylor and his fiance, Jessie Bahrey, became an early pandemic diversion, like sourdough bread, Netflix watch parties and newly adopted puppies. Pundits were suddenly appearing on the cable news channels not from remote studios but on Zoom or Skype from bedrooms, living rooms and makeshift offices. Taylor and Bahrey rate their home setups, docking points for things like visible cords or a poorly angled screen and awarded them for well-organized bookcases or stylish art." WaPo: Room Rater was a beloved pandemic distraction. But the backlash has arrived, courtesy of Jeb Bush. (Room Rater is great and backlash on the internet is like fuel on a fire.)


Bottom of the News

"It's true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs. Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates." The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired. (I can attest to this. I am a vegetarian and I plan to sleep most of the day.)

+ Every State's Most Popular Thanksgiving Side, Visualized. (If you're stuck with a side salad in Maine, you're within a few hours of Mac and Cheese and some rolls.)

+ Have a great Thanksgiving, folks.