Monday Required Reading

1A. These are the best (and most surprising) places to get a draft in a bike race. Important research to know before your next race.

1B. How to keep the bike boom from fizzling out. In Pete Buttigieg we trust.  

“The need for the bike boom to roll on beyond the pandemic is about more than the love of cycling. . . . You’ll literally breathe easier when you start replacing more car trips with bicycles. We’re talking less carbon emissions, less traffic congestion, and a healthier population — the essential ingredients that make people happier and less stressed out. In the World Happiness Report 2020, countries with high bicycle use tend to be among the happiest overall, like the Netherlands (ranked sixth; daily bike use: 43 percent), Denmark (ranked second; daily bike use: 30 percent), and Finland (ranked first; daily bike use: 28 percent).”

2. What to wear to Christmas parties this year.

3. Perhaps he has written more hit songs than anyone else.

4. New data shows residents fleeing California in near record numbers. Substantive reporting from the Sac Bee. Good to know some local papers are still alive and kicking.

5A. COVID-19 and the Failure of Swedish Exceptionalism

“Whereas American exceptionalism is about America’s unique place in the world, Swedish exceptionalism is about being immune to any disasters that may happen in the rest of the world.” 

5B. Younger People Get Vaccines First in Indonesia’s Unusual Rollout.

“There are no good choices, there is only the least-bad choice.”

 

 

 

Denial Is Not a River In Egypt

Except when it comes to the Seattle Mariners, I’m not normally a “glass half empty” guy, but I’m worn down by the President’s, Michael Medved’s, and some of my friends’ continuing, knee-jerk insistence that we’re the “greatest country in the world”, which increasingly sounds like Stuart Smiley trying to convince himself that “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

Some facts from Nicholas Kristof’s current piece in the New York times “The Best-Case Outcome for the Coronavirus, and the Worst”.

  • The United States has still done only a bit more than 10 percent as many tests per capita as Canada, Austria and Denmark.
  • . . . one can argue that the U.S. is not only on the same path as Italy but is also less prepared, for America has fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than Italy does — and a shorter life expectancy even in the best of times.
  • . . . the C.D.C. has posted official guidance advising that doctors and nurses ‘might use homemade masks (e.g., bandanna, scarf) for care of patients with Covid-19 as a last resort.’
  • the United States is in a weaker position than some other countries to confront the virus because it is the only advanced country that doesn’t have universal health coverage, and the only one that does not guarantee paid sick leave. With chronic diseases, the burden of these gaps is felt primarily by the poor; with infectious diseases, the burden will be shared by all Americans.

The True Believers will not only refute these facts, they will never change their view that the (dis)United States is the greatest country in the world. That notion is essential to their sense of self. And yet, their myopia will not do anything to reverse our steady slide. Their self-congratulatory insistence that we’re the greatest country in the world will only grow more delusional over time.

 

Grading the Demos

Biden. “C-“. Came across as desperate. Clearly “his people” told him it’s now or never. Kept saying, “I’m the only guy who. . . ” Once referred to the Obama Administration as “My administration”. The repeated references to the past, coupled with his age, makes one wonder why we should put our future in his hands. Peeved at the moderators for slighting him. Reminded me of a once great athlete unable to walk away from the game.

Bloomberg. “D”. What a waste of $419m, the amount he’s spent on on t.v. ads so far. Of course, to him, that’s parking ticket money. I would love to see him debate Trump because he’s so good at trolling him and he’s clearly not afraid of him, but after he was eviscerated by Warren, the odds of him winning the nomination are about the same as me. His not crying or disappearing during one of the commercial breaks saved him from an “F”.

Buttigieg. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position himself as the sensible alternative. Did a good job of repeating the $29,000 line, the amount at which people who support Sanders “Medicare For All” will see their taxes increase. Smiled a fair amount. His line about “living in his one house” in Indiana was excellent. Obviously thinks his geography is a distinct advantage, but has not acknowledged how it might limit his appeal to people of color. Tried to be mean to Klobuchar on her Mexico faux pax, but he’s not a natural cabrón. Should’ve shaved beforehand. Reminded me of a young athlete who may be great some day.

Klobuchar. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position herself as the only person who can beat Trump because of her winning record. Came across like a car in a Minnesota blizzard with its back wheels spinning, spinning, spinning. Displayed an impressive array of “Oh shit, you did NOT just say that” facial expressions when attacked by Buttigieg and Warren. Gets credit for a sense of humor (“Post-it notes were invented in my State”) and poise when under attack. Sadly, she is the one candidate who is consistently cut off by moderators.

Sanders. “B”. Didn’t do anything obvious to slow his momentum. Sticked to his now predictable talking points. Handled the Culinary Workers Union controversy adequately. Avoided front-runner attacks thanks to Bloomberg’s presence. Someone from his team should send Bloomberg a $25 Starbucks gift certificate. How many people, like me, googled his age mid-way through? He’ll be 79 on election day. His campaign is an interesting political science experiment. Can people handle the truth about our country’s decline? About how social mobility has grinded to a halt? About how the quality of life is better in some other countries? That we’re lagging behind Denmark? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Warren. “A”. Yeah, I’m biased since I’ve thought she would make the best President all along. I loved the FIREY comeback. Her evisceration of Bloomberg had to make Trump nervous. She was the most prepared, most intelligent, most detailed, most focused of the candidates. But she wasn’t just flame throwing. Her defense of Klobuchar for not knowing Mexico’s president’s name (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) was one of her strongest moments. Girl power and all that. Reminded me of a great athlete in her prime.