Wednesday, February 9th, 2022


Masquerade Brawl

Here's a secret. We all want this damn pandemic to end. We're all sick of wearing masks. We're all sick of the death count. We're all sick of our lives being put on hold. And we're all sick of the counterproductive human on human fights when we should be locking virtual arms in a unified battle against our invisible enemy. Nowhere are these fights more absurd than when it comes to mask-wearing. Aside from vaccines, wearing masks affords us the best protection against Covid. And in the grand scheme of things, wearing them is no big deal. But we had idiotic fights about putting masks on. So you can be sure we're gonna have idiotic fights about taking them off. Meanwhile, sane people are like, "Hey, just let me know when I can safely stop wearing one."

Like most things, our mask debates are nothing new. As I explain in my book, there were mask resisters back in 1918, too. Some of that resistance was organized, including a group known as the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco (Trump was born just a century too late to find some support in SF). The objections to masks during the Spanish flu pandemic will sound all too familiar to those who are suffering through the coronavirus: the masks were uncomfortable, the masks didn't work, the mask ordinances were an infringement upon freedoms and civil liberties ... The most fantastically bizarre mask trend from 1918 was that, either as protest, or as an act of addiction, some people would cut holes in their mask to smoke. If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times. The day my lungs aren't strong enough to smoke through my mask, I'm switching to edibles.

In March 2020, Yascha Mounk wrote that America should "cancel everything." And shortly thereafter, we did. Now, in The Atlantic Mounk is saying it's time to Open Everything. He may be right since we have vaccines and other tools to fight Covid, the Omicron spike appears to be abating, and several states are already easing their mask requirements, even in schools. Of course, as a parent, you might feel differently about school mask mandates than teachers, who are inhaling your kids' germs all day long. And the variant trends we see today could reverse again in the near future. So how about if we go easy on each other as we work our way through this phase of the pandemic? We've lost 900,000 of our fellow Americans to this scourge. Our kids have missed key moments of their youth and our parents have spent their twilight years imprisoned. Maybe it's time to mourn the things we've lost instead of continuing to add human decency to that list.


Bonding Over Stock Rules

Trust in our institutions is extremely low, so now would be a pretty good time tighten up some rules. And few rules are more farcical than the fact that elected officials are allowed to trade individual stocks. With Schumer and Pelosi on board, it looks like Congress might make some progress on this issue.


Star Power

"European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion - the energy process that powers the stars." BBC: Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy. (It won't solve this era's climate challenge, but progress is progress.)


The Agony of Defeat

Mikaela Shiffrin is having a rough Olympics. "Just two days after crashing 11 seconds into the opening run of the giant slalom race -- in which she was the defending gold medalist -- the 26-year-old American recorded another 'Did Not Finish,' having skidded out of control and missed a gate after about 5 seconds on the course in Beijing." In short, she slipped. But slipping is a tough way to go when you've spent you're life working towards a moment. "It makes me second-guess the last 15 years, everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality."

+ Sixteen years ago Lindsey Jacobellis lost a sure gold medal with a little too much flair near the finish line. She fell. She's been climbing back for 16 years. She just got her gold (and America's first).

+ Alex Kirshner in Slate: The rationalizing and compartmentalizing that sports tend to require isn't working this time. I've been watching the events every night, but it is harder to get into than other Olympics. Some of it is political. Some of it is the U.S. medal count. But after watching for a few nights, I'm convinced a lot of it is the coverage. We used to get backgrounders and bios on competitors from around the world. Our interest was built up. Now we get commercial after commercial after commercial in an era when we're used to getting none of them.


Extra, Extra

Vote Moat: "This is the same John Roberts who in 1982, as a young lawyer in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, fought a crucial amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965; whose majority opinion in 2013 gutted one-half of the Voting Rights Act and who joined an ahistoric opinion last summer that took aim at the other half." Linda Greenhouse in the NYT: The Supreme Court Has Crossed the Rubicon. (And it will continue to do so for a long, long time.)

+ Amy Coney Island: "Andrew Lewis, a University of Cincinnati political scientist who studies faith-based advocacy, told me that religious conservatives often used to feel 'looked down upon by some of the original Federalist Society members.' But, he went on, 'they have increasingly gained power, and their concerns have become more central to the project.'" Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker: Amy Coney Barrett's Long Game.

+ Friend Zone: "The older we get, the more we need our friends—and the harder it is to keep them." Jennifer Senior in The Atlantic: It's Your Friends Who Break Your Heart. (I have a couple friends that I met 30 years ago. My wife refers to them as my new friends.)


Bottom of the News

"Over the past couple of weeks, some people who listen to KUOW in their Mazdas say their car radio is permanently stuck on 94.9 FM. It's only affecting KUOW, Mazdas from 2016, and we have no idea why."

+ "As a backup dancer for Beyonce, Shania Twain, Gwen Stefani, Sting, Carlos Santana, and Michelle Branch at the 2003 Super Bowl, I performed in a way that caused Rolling Stone to rank it the 17th best halftime show ever. Sure the writer referred to Twain's performance as 'a career-freezing sadgasm' but imagine how much sadgasm-ier it would have been if, among 500 high-school girls, there wasn't a long-haired 31-year-old guy in a low-cut sparkly blue shirt and matching jazz pants waving an 30-foot bamboo pole with a giant flag of a saxophone?" Joel Stein: I Stand with the Unpaid Super Bowl Dancers.

+ Note: NextDraft will off on Thursday. See you Friday!