How Thanksgiving Became “Thanksgiving”

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Yes, there was a feast near Plymouth Plantation between the European settlers and the Native Americans way back in 1621. That is the branding and the omnipresent visuals that have pervaded the holiday over the past decades. The reality is that Thanksgiving did not become a ‘thing’ until the era of the Civil War. From the awesome Substack newsletter of Heather Cox Richardson (History Professor at Boston College):

That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and while early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and– with luck—prosperity, neither of these gave rise to our national celebration of Thanksgiving.

We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the Civil War.

Heather Cox Richardson

During the Civil War, there was a period when the prospects of the Union army was not looking good. So the Governors of several states declared a ‘thanksgiving’ holiday to celebrate the troops efforts and drum up support for the cause. The original date of Thanksgiving was August 6th. However, as the Civil War raged on, the Union Army started to secure some victories – none bigger than Vicksburg on July 4th of 1863. And from there, Lincoln decided that a second date for giving thanks to the troops was needed.

The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of our democratic government.

Heather Cox Richardson

It is always interesting to peel back the perception of how certain traditions started to learn the real history of what circumstances really led to what we celebrate today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gaelic Football’s Final Four The Same As Bloody Sunday 100 Years Ago

Bloody Sunday Ticket - Tipperary v Dublin
Bloody Sunday Ticket - Tipperary v Dublin
Image via Adams Auctions (https://www.adams.ie)

Recently, and over the next few years, there will be several centennial anniversaries related to the Irish War of Independence that took place roughly 100 years ago (1919-1921) and was led by Irish heroes like Michael Collins. A key event during that difficult time was the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place 100 years ago this past Saturday, November 21st. It was on this day where people attending a Gaelic Football game at Croke Park in Dublin were attacked by British operatives in retaliation for the death of 14 British intelligence officers earlier that day at the hands of the Irish Republican Army. Charles Piece wrote a great piece at The Defector detailing what happened:

Dublin was on edge. That morning, in a coordinated attack, guerrillas under the command of IRA leader Michael Collins fanned out of the city and systematically decapitated the British intelligence apparatus in the Irish capital. In a single operation, the IRA killed 14 people it had identified as British intelligence operatives. It was one of the most decisive episodes in the War of Independence that had begun in 1919 and it shook the British government in Ireland to its core. Suspicions arose that the gunmen may have planned to melt into the crowd at Croke Park; the GAA was born out of the same burst of Irish nationalism that eventually would lead to the Easter Rising and the birth of the IRA. (In fact, historians now believe that John McDonnell, the goalkeeper of the Dublin side, had been involved in the killing that morning of two British intelligence agents before showing up to play the match. That is one rich, full day.) The money raised at the challenge game would go to a fund that supported the families of Republican prisoners still held in British jails.

At Croke Park on the afternoon of November 21, 1920, about five minutes after the game had begun, the attention of the spectators was drawn by an airplane that circled above the stadium twice and then fired off a red flare. 

As if it were a signal, which it likely was, the police and soldiers surrounding the neighborhood stormed into Croke Park through its southwest gate and opened up on the crowd with rifles and revolvers. When the killing was done, 14 people were dead. They included three schoolboys—10-year-old Jerome O’Leary, 11-year-old William Robinson, and 14-year-old John William Scott—as well as Jane Boyle, a 26-year old who was planning to be married later that week, and Michael Hogan, a Tipperary player who was killed while crawling to cover. Somewhere between 60 and 100 people were wounded.

Charles Piece, The Defector

On that fateful Sunday 100 years ago, the final four teams that had survived the Gaelic Football playoffs were Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan. And wouldn’t you know that fate would mess with us 100 years on.

The biggest of the planned centenary commemorations, some of which had been in the works for years, were downsized or outright canceled because of COVID-19. But the games went on, sans fans and English soldiers. And from the just-completed quarterfinal round of the GAA’s All-Ireland tournament (an annual competition that grips the nation and is played exclusively by amateur athletes representing their home counties) it appears that the Gaelic football gods remembered what happened all those years ago. The four sides that advanced over the weekend to next month’s semifinals—Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan—are the exact same quartet that made the semis in 1920, the year of the bloodbath. 

The 2020 Gaelic Final Four semi finals will take place the weekend of December 5-6 and the Championship will be held on December 19.

Why America’s medical professionals are petrified about this winter and the Coronavirus

From the 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.

Over the past few weeks, as we all know by now, the volume of cases in the United States has exploded to levels that have exceeded the worst days of the pandemic from this past spring. The current administration has had one meeting of their COVID Task Force since mid October, and that was only held this week, likely because of peer pressure since President-elect Joe Biden has already created a COVID task force and held their first meeting on Tuesday. The current President is in a self-imposed ‘time out’ where he’s spent the past week pouting about losing the general election, while the rest of the country is drowning in COVID outbreaks.

The most infuriating aspect of this whole pandemic is that most of this carnage was preventable. If the current President had just acted on the intelligence that he received in December of 2019, instead of waiting until January 18th to take his first meeting with Health & Human Services officials, it is reasonable to deduce we could have prevented more than half of the 240,000+ deaths that we have had so far as a result of the virus if people and the administration had listened to medical professionals and promoted the idea of wearing a mask. Instead, the president undermined the message from the very beginning and turned it into a political issue. Let that sink in. Instead of me trying to explain this any further, just watch John Oliver explain it in plain terms:

So now, we are heading into the holiday season, where families usually get together and the weather is starting to get much colder. It is inevitable that the Coronavirus may explode beyond the alarming numbers we are seeing today.

Has the Coronavirus ‘magically gone away’? I don’t think so.

Who are we?

From Frank Bruni at The NY Times:

Opinion: “Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.

He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.

Polls from mid-October showed that about 44 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance — and this was after he’d concealed aspects of his coronavirus infection from the public, shrugged off the larger meaning of it, established the White House as its own superspreader environment and cavalierly marched on.

Forty-four percent. Who in God’s name are we?”

Don’t steal a Banksy

Via www.streetartbio.com/artists/banksy/

Most people familiar with the artist Banksy. He (or she. I will use ‘he/his’ moving forward) is known for not being known. And he is also known for his distinctive modern art that ‘pops up’ in unique spots all around the world. With the nature of Banksy’s art being so public and displayed in such public spaces, it is really interesting how he (or she) goes about distributing ‘Certificates of Authenticity’ to verify that the person who possess his art acquired it legitimately.

Banksy has established a virtual portal to authenticate whether specific works of his are both genuine and genuinely obtained — and, as the guy trying to get a painting valued admits, he’d visited the site and been told that the painting could not be validated because it was not obtained legally. 

Dubbed Pest Control, the service offers an easy-to-use interface to determine a particular work’s validity. Elsewhere on Pest Control’s site, they offer a more extensive explanation of what they do — namely, issue certificates of authenticity.

As for what that means, well — here’s what Pest Control themselves have to say: “The certificate of authenticity (COA) means you can buy, sell or insure a piece of art knowing it’s legitimate and the wheels won’t fall off,” they write. “Pest Control is the only source of COA’s for Banksy. We issue them for paintings, prints, sculptures and other attempts at creativity. We don’t issue them for things like stickers, posters, defaced currency or anything which wasn’t originally intended as a ‘work of art’.”

Pest Control also offers a “Keeping It Real” service, which lets prospective buyers of a work by Banksy confirm that the work is, in fact, legitimate. 

This situation came into full relief recently as someone who had ‘acquired’ an Banksy in Brighton UK had brought the piece onto Antiques Roadshow to get it appraised, only to be taken to the woodshed by the host, who chastised the person for not providing the ‘Certificate of Authenticity’.

I am a fan of Banksy’s work because of the way his art communicates a clear, many times withering, message about a topic, movement or circumstance that people need to pay attention to. What brings this home is not only the art itself, but the surface in which the art is painted and/or the environment surrounding the art. One of my favorite pieces that he has done was a mural on the corner of a garage in Port Talbot, Wales, UK. On one wall of the corner, it depicts a child in winter clothes with his arms outstretch and mouth open, seeming to be catching snowflakes with his tongue. If you look on the wall on the other side of the corner, you see that it is a burning garbage bin that is producing the flakes. The message he was sending had to do with the fact that Port Talbot is the home of one of the largest steel mills in the UK that produces immense pollution in and around that area. The accompanying video that he published on his Instagram account really brings the message home.

View this post on Instagram

. . . . Season’s greetings . . .

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

Update: Maybe my observation that Banksy may be a woman wasn’t too far off! From an article on Bloomberg from 2014:

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York. All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

The Half Life of A Twinkie

All the stories and legends about the half-life of Twinkies are a lie. The perception has always been that when global warming renders the world into a barren wasteland, or when a massive asteroid hits the earth like in the movie Armageddon, the one food product that would survive would be the Twinkie. With the level of chemicals and artificial sweeteners and flavors contained within the iconic snack, why would you think otherwise? Back in 2012, the Twinkies brand was on life support as Hostess was going bankrupt and people were starting to hoard the snack for posterity and to ensure their supply did not run out, as one does. And that is what Colin Purrington did, unaware that a real life pandemic would take hold of the world and drive him to search his basement eight years later for that old box of Twinkies. They’re Twinkies. They will last forever.

Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. He removed a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped it — it looked fine — and took a bite. Then he retched.

“It tasted like old sock,” Purrington says. “Not that I’ve ever eaten old sock.”

That’s when he examined the other Twinkies. Two looked weird. One had a dark-colored blemish the size of a quarter. The other Twinkie was completely transformed — it was gray, shrunken and wrinkly, like a dried morel mushroom.

Enter some scientists from West Virginia University who did a full on scientific study of the 8 year old Twinkies and the fascinating dichotomy between some of the specimens, who on the outside looked as fresh as if you would have bought them today at your local 7-11, and others who had been completely ravaged by a fungus that had transformed the Twinkie into a shriveled mess, while sucking the air out of the packaging.

They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out.

“You end up with a vacuum,” Lovett says. “And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus’s ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now.”

Lovett had expected a horrific smell to hit them when they opened the snack cakes. “I though the smell would possibly kill one of us, but because of the mummification there really was no smell at all,” he says, “which was really a pleasant surprise.”

Moral of the story. Your snacks won’t last forever, even those as artificial as Twinkies. Eat them when they are fresh.

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite!

My contribution to the effort. A group of 20 artists are uniting to help drive awareness of the campaign. So I thought I’d join in with my own contribution to the effort. I don’t have a huge following but every little bit helps.

Last week, I [Jessica Hische] had a good conversation with the Biden creative team. I shared that one of my concerns for the upcoming election was the lack of visible support for the campaign. There are a lot of folx within the creative world and beyond posting on social media about voting (a wonderful and necessary message), but few of those posts mention the candidates by name. It’s somewhat implied that if you’re promoting voting or voting rights that you’re likely voting Biden and encouraging a Biden vote, but it’s not explicit. There’s a “I guess I’ll vote for him if I have to” vibe throughout leftist social media, but exasperated resignation doesn’t get people to the polls.

Our goal as a group, as stated above, is to get people not only voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but talking about voting for them out loud. Many of us supported different candidates in the primary but understand and strongly believe that we must unite behind the team that has a real chance of defeating Donald Trump and steering America in the right direction—a team that will only win if we fully and enthusiastically support them.

Go to Vote.org to make sure you are registered to vote.

Voyeuristic Views of the World

With so many still under some form of quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to ‘virtually’ escape and go ‘visit’ other places around the world is obviously in demand.

In late June, a site called Window Swap was making the rounds. It is a site that has the simple premise of being able to share a photo or video of what the world looks like while looking out the window of your home. For example, how about having this view of the Egyptian Pyramids outside of your window. I’d never stop looking away.

Keeping with this trend, another neat site that takes this premise to the next level is Drive & Listen. What this site does is let you watch dashcam video from people driving in and around all sorts of great cities of the world, and ‘overlays’ it with radio broadcasts from that market. So for example, you can watch a video of someone driving around Rome, Italy during any normal day while listening to Italian radio. There is even a Drive & Listen Instagram account as well.

A ho hum day driving around Rome, Italy

For someone who loves to travel and is kinda frustrated to have to be at home for so long as our country deals with this pandemic, being able to see the nuances of many of the world’s great cities from my desktop computer is a pretty neat trick.

Photo realistic images of historic figures

From photographer Bas Uterwijk, some pretty authentic looking A.I. generated images of a few historical figures as if they were to pose for a modern portrait photo. To me, the two below of George Washington and Vincent Van Gogh are pretty stunning versions – especially George Washington’s eyes and the almost tired look of his face. You just feel like he’s going to command the room and not put up with any ‘red coat’ bs.

via Bas Uterwijk
via Bas Uterwijk

The Law School life of the Notorious RBG

Really interesting and entertaining interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg via Slate Mag. The premise of the interview was to profile her relationship with the 9 other female classmates in a late 1950s Harvard Law School class that had over 500 men. The interviewers (Dahlia Lithwick) talked with RBG in detail about each of her female classmates, and the dynamics of their relationships – including how there was a sort of schism between those that were married and those that were not.

Well, in my first year, I was the only one who was married and had a child. I think Carol, I think she got married. And Alice got married at the end of her first year. So my first year, I was the only married woman in the class. And the only mother, because Rhoda [who was married] took her first year at Penn, and then she was in our second year.

Beyond the dynamics of the few females in this Harvard Law class, there was the relationship that the females had with the faculty and the Dean. The class regularly had dinner with the Law School Dean at the time, Erwin Griswold, as the Dean had a sincere advocacy for the success of women, even if his methods and approach went over like a lead balloon.

Anyway, [at the dinner], each of us had an escort. [The dean] arranged for somebody on the faculty to sit next to each of the women. And my escort was a very well-known Columbia Law School professor, Herb Wechsler.

I’m told that the escorts, before they came to Griswold’s home for dinner, went nearby to Judge [Calvert] Magruder’s house. Because the dean didn’t serve any alcohol, they went there first. There were many good things about Dean Griswold, including his bravery in the McCarthy era—in the book he wrote about the Fifth Amendment. But he didn’t have a sense of humor, and because he had been a proponent of the admission of women, he wanted to assure the doubting Thomases on the faculty that these women were going to do something worthwhile with their law degrees. So he asked that question, “Why are you here occupying a seat that could be held by a man?,” because he wanted to be armed with stories from the women themselves, about how they plan to make use of their law degrees, and not just waste this wonderful education they would get.

He didn’t have any sense that he was making the women feel uncomfortable about this. I don’t know if Flora told you about her answer, but as I remember it, she said, “Dean Griswold, there are X number of us. … There are 500 of them. What better place to find a man?

Yet after all the glass ceilings that RBG and her peers broke, and after all the progress that women have made in law – and other industry – the observation at the end of the article really struck me when the discussion turned to RBG’s perspective on how women today are facing similar challenges to those that she faced in the 1960s and 1970s, which in the eyes of a twenty-something in 2020, seems like the dark ages.

It’s an unconscious bias. It’s the expectation. You have a lowered expectation when you hear a woman speaking, I think that still goes on. That instinctively when a man speaks, he will be listened to, where people will not expect the woman to say anything of value. But all of the women in my generation have had, time and again, that experience where you say something at a meeting, and nobody makes anything of it. And maybe half an hour later, a man makes the identical point, and people react to it and say, “Good idea.” That, I think, is a problem that persists. Some of it is getting over unconscious bias by becoming conscious of it, which I thought … I’ve told the story about the symphony orchestra many times. People were so sure that they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man, and when put to the test, when blindfolded, they could not.

Willis Reese was a law professor at Columbia Law School. And he said, there’s one thing he regrets about the old days. He said when the class was moving slowly, and you wanted to get a crisp right answer, “You called on a woman. She was always prepared.” And nowadays, he said, there’s no difference, the women are as unprepared as the men.

Taking On A Generational Talent Like Zion Williamson

Millions of kids across the country participate in high school athletics. Invariably, those high school athletes will compare themselves, or be compared, to the other players in their conference and state. Some will think they measure up pretty well. Others know they will not do more than earn their high school varsity letter. And then, every once in a while, a generational talent will show up and re-calibrate everything.

Zion Williamson, a rookie Power Forward on the New Orleans Pelicans, is two years removed from playing high school basketball in South Carolina. Every opponent during his high school career had his game marked – “The Zion Game” – and those opponents knew that they were in for a long, humbling evening:

The Zion Games didn’t feel real most of the time, more like some kind of fever dream. Just to see a dude that massive, yet somehow more athletic than everyone else on the court by a factor of about 10, is astonishing. I still remember watching him go up for an alley-oop and seeing him float in the air like he was made of helium or something. 

Even though these kids knew that they were in for a humbling beat down from one of the great players of their age – or any age – their appreciation and respect for Zion was what was most interesting to me.

All that said, Zion is genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever played against, just super positive and humble. He was a huge deal in high school, especially in South Carolina. We had an unofficial team policy that you weren’t allowed to take a picture with him after the games, just to maintain what little integrity we had. But that still didn’t stop a lot of the younger guys — and even some coaches — from doing it. To Zion’s credit, he was always willing to talk to anyone as well as always encouraging to the younger guys. Everyone should really be rooting for him to succeed. He’s a great guy, and he’s overcome a lot to get to where he’s at. 

Maybe current and future stars from across the sports spectrum can take a cue from the 20 year old rookie from New Orleans. Be humble and show respect to your opponents no matter how good your are and no matter what the outcome of the contest is.

Selling The US Down The River

John Bolton and 45

From Carl Bernstein (Yes, that Carl Bernstein) on CNN, an absolutely insane yet not at all surprising piece on 45’s phone calls with dictators and allies around the world:

One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as ‘abominations’ so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.

The insidious effect of the conversations comes from Trump’s tone, his raging outbursts at allies while fawning over authoritarian strongmen, his ignorance of history and lack of preparation as much as it does from the troubling substance, according to the sources. While in office, then- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed worry to subordinates that Trump’s telephone discussions were undermining the coherent conduct of foreign relations and American objectives around the globe, one of CNN’s sources said. And in recent weeks, former chief of staff Kelly has mentioned the damaging impact of the President’s calls on US national security to several individuals in private.

The most jaw dropping elements were saved for describing 45’s interactions with Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan

The calls with Putin and Erdogan were particularly egregious in terms of Trump almost never being prepared substantively and thus leaving him susceptible to being taken advantage of in various ways, according to the sources — in part because those conversations (as with most heads of state), were almost certainly recorded by the security services and other agencies of their countries.In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his “unprecedented” success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and “stronger” he is than “the imbeciles” and “weaklings” who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin’s admiration and approval. Putin “just outplays” him, said a high-level administration official — comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin “destabilizes the West,” said this source, the President of the United States “sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him.” (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like “two guys in a steam bath,” a source added.)

Just as a reminder, a summary of how the Senate voted during the impeachment proceedings earlier this year. (Remember that?)

The Importance of Live Aid

Freddie Mercury at LiveAid

Live Aid was a seminal day and event in rock and roll history that has been discussed and analyzed numerous times over the 35 years since it took place. What is amazing to me about Live Aid is that it went from hair-brained idea to seminal, once in a lifetime event in just about a year.

Live Aid, which took place on July 13, 1985 for a global audience of 1.9 billion people, was a massive, bi-continental pop concert created to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. It was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, leader of the Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats. Geldof was spurred to philanthropic action after seeing a BBC report in October 1984 that featured footage of starving children. His first thought was to make a charity single.

Of course, Live Aid wasn’t just about fundraising. It also had to be a great show—or else why would people bother to watch it in the first place? As it happened, the day was filled with memorable performances on both sides of the Atlantic. The consensus pick for Live Aid MVP is Queen, whose 21-minute Wembley set included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We are the Champions.” Mercury “strutted and preened, carrying his microphone on a metal pole that he treated as a vaudevillian’s cane, an air guitar, and, of course, a phallus,” The New York Times wrote of Mercury’s performance. “He was a rock star playing a rock star, leather-lunged and imperious but also grinning to let everyone share the joke … For 21 minutes, Freddie Mercury undeniably made the world his stadium.” In 2005, Queen’s Live Aid set was voted the greatest rock gig in history by a panel of music industry experts.

The diversity of the acts that performed during the Live Aid concerts in Philly and London was a downfall of the event, but it was not for a lack of trying. While it was an important day for artists like Run-DMC, other larger black artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Prince declined to participate. Hindsight is 20/20 and I am sure there were things that could have been done to get a more diverse palette of artists to perform. The impact that the event had on Run-DMC was real and was an important opportunity to expose a worldwide audience to the emerging ‘hip hop’ genre of music.

As a teenager in the middle of high school when this event took place, I will never forget spending that Saturday watching the concert unfold. It was an amazing thing to witness live and I only wish I could have been there in person in Philadelphia.

How The Virus Won

COVID-19 How It Happened - NY Times

The NY Times with a really amazing piece on their site that takes you step by step from the first two cases of COVID-19 in mid-February 2020 through to the disaster that is unfolding in front of our eyes.

We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it. At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.

And then after that, our elected leaders encouraged people to travel around the country and in doing so, accelerated the spread of the disease.

Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.

But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives. And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.

As people traveled into and out of the United States, cities like New York turned into a massive hot spot for the virus. Once the reality of the situation was acertained by government leaders, they tried to mitigate the situation by restricting travel.

By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks.

Today, after we were starting to see serious progress towards gaining control over this public health crisis, we are now seeing a rapid increase in cases across the South and Southwest as the country has begun to open up. Who could have predicted that? While other developed countries in Europe have effectively brought their COVID situations under control, the United States is now seeing an alarming rise in cases. What an embarrassment.

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

McCandless “Magic Bus” Removed From Alaskan Wilderness

The abandoned 1946 Fairbanks Bus #142 (aka the “Magic Bus”) that was used by Christopher McCandless during his fateful Alaskan adventure, as popularized in Jon Krakaur’s book “Into The Wild” and the movie of the same name, was removed from the Alaskan wilderness yesterday. (Video of the removal)

The bus has long attracted adventurers to an area without cellphone service and marked by unpredictable weather and at-times swollen rivers. Some have had to be rescued or have died. Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book and movie, died there in 1992.

The rescue earlier this year of five Italian tourists and death last year of a woman from Belarus intensified calls from local officials for the bus, about 25 miles from the Parks Highway, to be removed.

The Alaska Army National Guard moved the bus as part of a training mission “at no cost to the public or additional cost to the state,” Feige said.

The Alaska National Guard, in a release, said the bus was removed using a heavy-lift helicopter. The crew ensured the safety of a suitcase with sentimental value to the McCandless family, the release states. It doesn’t describe that item further.

From the time I first read about Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) [PDF] and his fateful adventure into the Alaskan wilderness, I have always found the story both compelling and tragic. Maybe it was because he was almost my exact age (born only two months after me), or maybe I was somewhat jealous of the courage he had to just pick up after college and take off on an excursion to explore the country and to find his calling. I was drawn to the sense of adventure and exploration that came with the story. The tragedy, of course, was that his fate was avoidable had he not been as dismissive of the dangers of ‘living off the land’ and the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness.

There has been ample criticism of his story for just this reason – what is it about this story that compels us to “celebrate” the stupidity of a person who heads out into the Alaskan wilderness with not much more than a backpack? I don’t know the answer to that question.

As was noted in the article about the removal of the bus, it was a move that seems like it had to be done. Over the years, the “Magic Bus” had attracted tourists from all over the world, those in search of replicating his journey and others who were just drawn to make a pilgrimage to see the bus. But much like Chris himself, several of those people did not appreciate the danger of that part of the country, and that resulted in the need for Alaskan authorities to rescue people, or tragically, recover people who had met the same fate as Chris.

Hopefully, the fine folks in Alaska will find a spot for the “Magic Bus” in a museum, or in a part of the state that is far easier for people to visit than where it previously was.

UPDATE
Nice write up by Eva Holland at Outside Magazine providing more detail and context about people visiting the “Magic Bus” over the years and the danger that came with those visits. via @nextdraft.

Twitter Tuesday – The Week In Tweets

The Excuses They Used Not To Sign Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, on Sunday, Sept. 18.(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the singing of the National Anthem across the 2016 season, the NFL turned a cold shoulder and let him flap in the wind. The league has never admitted as much, yet it is so clear that is what happened as the fine folks at The Ringer have clearly articulated, down to the detail about his playing performance (which admittedly did tail off but was still better compared to other QBs signed in the past few years).

And so it took a course of inaction. The NFL never suspended Kaepernick; the quarterback simply never found his way onto a roster in 2017, 2018, or 2019. This inaction pissed just about everybody off. Kap’s supporters were convinced that he had been blackballed from the league, while President Donald Trump urged his base to stop watching NFL games and in 2017 called protesting players “sons of bitches.” Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke publicly about the importance of having “different viewpoints” while reportedly “looking for a way for the protests to end.” Last December, Goodell told media that the league had “moved on” from Kaepernick.

Fast forward four years to 2020, where a string of police brutality cases capped by the death of George Floyd led the NFL and their ‘silver spooned’ commissioner Roger Goodell to release an awkwardly crafted video that basically admitted that Kaepernick was right. Yet they didn’t have the guts to call him out by name.

There was just one error with the NFL’s approach: Kaepernick was right. The league seemed to think that it could ignore police brutality simply because it had “moved on” from Kaepernick, but police officers kept killing Black people. Hundreds of American cities have held Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and kneeling has become one of the international symbols of the movement. Public opinion has shifted. In 2016, Kaepernick was villainized for protesting during the anthem; in 2020, Drew Brees was villainized for saying he would “never agree with anybody” who protested in that way.