An American story arc

Today is Tuesday, July 21st, 2020. It’s the anniversary of both the first moonwalk and the last Space Shuttle mission.

No summer blockbusters this year, only re-runs of Jaws at the drive in. And, maybe that’s a good thing.

Fifty one years ago an American walked on the moon. Today we’re struggling with the not very complex problem of whether to wear a mask. Delta is doubling down on requiring them on flights while Winn Dixie says, come on in without one. (Update – they changed their mind and now require a mask). The governor of Texas is taking heat from local counties for his statewide mask-wearing mandate while the governor of Georgia is going out of his way to prevent local municipalities from implementing mask mandates. And the president, who was against masks, is now for masks. I can’t wait to see how we handle vaccine distribution.

The AG’s office in Massachusetts doesn’t do many criminal investigations. And from what I’ve seen, there’s a political angle to what investigations they do take on and how they approach them. So designating them to be point for deadly force investigations is either a cynical or a clueless decision by legislators.

When the Democratic National Convention came to Boston in 2004, planning started more than a year in advance. Same thing for the RNC in New York that same year and the DNC in Denver in 2008. There are a lot of moving parts. So I don’t envy the Sheriff in Jacksonville who’s trying to put together a security plan for the RNC in less than two months. Not to mention current government disfunction, today’s unrest and all the precautions needed for social distancing. That’s a triple-decker shit sandwich.

And now, here are some cute penguin photos to cool you off on a hot day.

A bridge to August

It’s Monday, July 20th, probably the best date on the calendar. It’ll be a hot one.

Billy Baker has yet another (great) story about greenhead flies.

Dan Primack and Nicholas Johnston use bullet points to explain how we blew it in preparing for the current outbreak. I continue to believe it’s all about testing, which we never really got right and which we’re still struggling with.

An Irish poem about yanks coming to visit in the days of coronavirus (via the Irish Post.) It’s a sad read.

The administration is revisiting that 100% tariff on European wine that was proposed and kiboshed a few months ago. It’s not what the bar and restaurant economy needs right now but it could still happen. On the local level there’s some good news for small breweries that wanted flexibility on distribution.

The Post looks at a new book on evolution that finds friendliness often beats fitness when it comes to survival. Dogs figured this out. Here’s the proof.

Oh, and on Friday the Internet broke. But now it’s fixed.

Dammed if you don’t

It’s a hot, sleepy Sunday. And it’s Ice Cream Day!

Of course he did.

The Globe casts a critical eye on Boston Police internal affairs investigations after reviewing data from the last few years. The article briefly touched on arbitrator-ordered reinstatements but didn’t acknowledge the huge financial disincentive that the stacked-deck arbitration system presents. Even a very strong case of discipline can be kicked back by an arbitrator resulting in a payout of millions of dollars to the fired officer for back pay and benefits. It’s not a great situation. But one chart in the story stood out. It showed citizen complains going steadily down while internally initiated investigations were going up. That’s the (positive) meta trend.

The Times has a long and detailed article on White House strategy development for the ultimately unsuccessful national response to the pandemic. TLDR: They zigged when they should have zagged.

The Mayflower II should be headed back to Plymouth before the end of 2020, which marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of its namesake. (And in the same article, by Breanne Kovatch, I learned that there is a website to track boats, similar to Flight Radar 24 for tracking airplanes. Very cool. There goes my morning.)

And Boston Magazine gives us the axe. To throw.

The great obfuscator

Saturday. Get ready for a heatwave. Today’s word is jink.

Frank Baker gives his thoughts on the city budget and why he voted for it.

It’s expected that a certain percentage of people riding the MBTA would not be wearing masks despite the mandate to do so. But I would think employees and operators should be at 100% compliance. Meanwhile, the biggest brick and mortar retailers in the US are now requiring masks to enter their stores. And on the wearing of masks, the president says… well, your guess is as good as mine.

Headline: Fox attacks Washington Post.

The Times went a bit deeper today than Brian Krebs did yesterday on the Bitcoin hack. It turns out that the person Krebs focused on may have only been on the periphery and that the real culprit apparently stumbled into a Twitter Slack channel and walked away with system admin credentials, which he and others used to get OG usernames. There’s got to be more to this than we’re seeing.

Natalie Wolchover writes about the inside baseball of cosmology as scientists try to determine just how fast the universe is expanding.

And Phillip Reeve has some thoughts on what makes a good picture.

Destructive criticism

This Friday took its time coming around. Plenty of rain, today, for the garden.

I found this short video illustration to be absolutely fascinating and it explains a lot about our country.

Sometimes being completely uninvolved with and uninformed about an issue doesn’t disqualify you from critically weighing in on it. I do it everyday. But knowing the players here, I side with Walsh. Councillor Wu has a track record of being hands-off and then swooping in to publicly criticize.

The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are ahead in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine. Human trials might be finished as early as September. Bloomberg looks at the woman heading the effort, Sarah Gilbert.

John Hollywood, from the RAND think tank, has compiled a set of ideas for how police leaders should approach change to be more effective and responsive to their communities. Fortunately Boston has been working on this track for some time now.

That epic Twitter hack earlier in the week may have looked like a bitcoin scam but could it have actually been a dress rehearsal for the election? Brian Krebs and others investigated and amazingly identified the likely perpetrator. Luckily, this time at least, it looks to have been just a sim-swapper.

And small businesses, some that have withstood formidable challenges over the years, are closing because of the impact of coronavirus. Sometimes a meme says it all.

Viral disfunction

Thursday morning. The nuclear age began 75 years ago, today.

This type of story makes the RMV look extra dysfunctional. Screw-ups happen. But there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in an endless loop of bureaucracy when trying to fix a screw-up.

The Twitter hack this week was a big deal. It doesn’t seem that the individual account holders were hacked but that Twitter itself was compromised. This time it was Bitcoin scammers but it’s not hard to imagine some other pretty scary scenarios.

2020 continues to disappoint. No Swan Boats this year. And no Head of the Charles.

The governor of Oklahoma came down with Covid-19. He said he was “pretty shocked.” He is on record as being against wearing masks and he attended the Trump rally in Tulsa three weeks ago where social distancing was discouraged, so there’s that. And this is the same state in which Joe Exotic came in third in the primary race for governor a few years ago and where Kayne West is filing his presidential papers this year, so there’s also that.

And speaking of masks, what the hell is going on in Georgia? The governor is actually prohibiting local rules that mandate the wearing of masks. This makes no sense, especially as major retail chains like Walmart, Kroger, Kohl’s and Sam’s Club are requiring masks for customers. Even neighboring Alabama has a statewide mask mandate.

And don’t forget Utah …We are indeed screwed.

Partners in crime

Today is Wednesday. It’s high summer. Enjoy.

The Massachusetts Senate stayed up late and passed a police reform bill designed to make everyone happy, which of course made no one happy. Now it’s on to House committees. Where it goes from there on Beacon Hill is anyone’s guess.

The Reverend Gene Rivers and Christopher Winship step up with a lesson in local history that many people seemed to have forgotten. The police in Boston have put in a lot of hard work over the last several decades to become the community’s police department and to be effective by working with the people in the communities. Is everything perfect? Of course not. There’s always more to be done and there always will be. But lumping the BPD in with regressive departments in other states does a disservice to all that hard work and risks a backslide into a ‘them vs. us’ approach, the thing which, ironically, distinguishes our police department from those regressive forces.

There’s scientific research and then there’s scientific research on hot dog eating contests. Here’s the backstory from the Times.

CBS broke into the local news last night to broadcast a hastily scheduled Rose Garden address by the president. Something serious and impactful for the nation? No, just a weird, rambling campaign speech. Bizarre. Another guardrail demolished.

And I admit that I forgot to wear a mask the other day when I stepped into the gas station to pay. Blame absent-mindedness. I was a little embarrassed but at least it didn’t cause a fight. What’s wrong with these people. Just wear your mask.

The little things

Tuesday. It could rain. On this day in 1881, Billy the Kid was shot and killed at Fort Sumner by Pat Garrett.

Here’s Biden‘s new ad targeting Texas. I think it’s pretty effective but there’s something missing. Where’s the scapegoating, name-calling, and negativity that we’ve come to expect in a political ad?

It’s nice to see that we’re using state of the art technology in the battle against the coronavirus. Mick Mulvaney, of all people, wrote an op-ed supporting additional funding to address the “testing problem in this country.” You know, the one that the administration says doesn’t exist. Anyway, when a vaccine is ready later this year (hopefully) we may not have enough glass vials to package and distribute it. Syringes may be a problem too. There is a plan to ramp up production. Fingers crossed.

State legislators are earning their paychecks these days. Too much to do, not enough time to do it and no money to fund whatever they’re able to do. One thing is clear. They are going to have to extend the session.

Science writer Lawrence Krauss wasn’t part of the group that signed the notorious letter on open expression of ideas. But he does have some thoughts on how it plays out in the sciences.

And a guy in India is so obsessed with photography that he lives in a giant camera and named his sons Nikon, Canon and Epson(?). I think Leica would be a nice name for a girl.

Palace intrigue

Monday. Can’t trust it. Today is the anniversary of the New York blackout of 1977.

Wired has a primer on the variables involved in herd immunity for Covid-19.

The White House is apparently trying to discredit Dr. Fauci by providing reporters a list of all the times he has been wrong. Pot, meet kettle. And how is the middle of a national pandemic a good time for this kind of weird, petty infighting?

Speaking of the White House, someone inside seems to have leaked to Jonathan Swan that the White House is obsessed with trying to prevent people from leaking.

Literary magazines come and go but I hope this one hangs in there.

Great photos and stories from Patrick Cashin, longtime photographer for the MTA in New York.

And some good news for a change: New York City reported zero deaths from coronavirus yesterday, the first time that’s happened since March 11th.

Shocked and chagrinned

Sunday. Full stop on the week. The weather is beautiful. The news is dark and cloudy.

The cold, barren expanse of City Hall Plaza will soon be a warm and cozy snuggery. Seems like I’ve heard that before.

Ted Cruz is not in favor of boycotts, except, of course, when he is.

Coronavirus numbers are still rising in the US, reversing many planned reopenings. You know it must be getting bad if the president is wearing a mask. And kids will be heading back to school in less than two months, which will likely spread the virus even more. Our status in the world is being affected. American passports are now pretty much worthless. We’re our own worst enemy. The new face of America is this guy, and this guy and this guy and these guys. How did we, as a nation, get so confused and discombobulated.

The City Council has scheduled two hearings on the Boston Police Department, one to talk about overtime and police salaries and the other to discuss union contract negotiations. (I must have missed the hearings on the fire department.) Also, an old BPD advisor, Jim Jordan, writes about what traits he would like to see in the new recruit class.

And when did we start naming and ascribing traits to entire generations? Sounds like a boomer thing, but it seems to be even older.