Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Recommended Link

COVID-19 risks: Know them, avoid them

Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, has published an informative primer on which environments the novel coronavirus is most easily transmitted in, which also discusses how people can minimize getting sick. (Top tip: Don’t go to church!)


It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government.

— Former President Barack Obama, describing the United States’ response to the 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic (Reuters: In leaked call, Obama describes Trump handling of virus as chaotic disaster)


Anyone can file a lawsuit, and anyone has.

— Governor Jay Inslee, responding to a reporter’s question about a series of ill-conceived lawsuits filed by radical right wing Republicans Clint Didier, Tim Eyman, and others, all aimed at quashing the governor’s stay home, stay healthy orders.


1918 pandemic + COVID-19 reading list: Three books that are worth your time

Want to better understand the times we are living in? Here’s a collection of pandemic literature that is credible, trustworthy, and fascinating.

  1. The Coming Plague: First published in 1994 in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance was a New York Times bestseller in 1994-5. Laurie Garrett researched and wrote The Coming Plague for ten years, starting in the mid-1980s when the very premise of the effort was highly controversial.
  2. The Great Influenza: Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (2004) provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon.
  3. Pale Rider: In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind’s vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the 1918 flu dramatically disrupted — and often permanently altered — global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts.

NPI’s Literary Advocate David Johnson reviewed Pale Rider the same year that it came out; you can read his favorable review at the Cascadia Advocate.

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Nervous Republicans see Trump sinking, and taking McConnell’s Senate majority with him

“The election is still six months away, but a rash of ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the Republicans worried about a Democratic takeover,” The New York Times reports.

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Watch highlights from the seventeenth episode of SNL’s forty-fifth season, sort of hosted by Brad Pitt, with Miley Cyrus as the musical guest.

Oh, and congratulations, Dr. Fauci… you got your wish!

In an interview with Fauci, [CNN] anchor Alisyn Camerota noted that “SNL” would be returning to NBC’s airwaves this weekend after a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What do you think the chances are that somebody will portray you?” Camerota asked.

“I have no idea. I hope not,” Fauci replied with a laugh.

Camerota quickly suggested a few performers’ names, including Ben Stiller and 56-year-old Pitt.

“Oh Brad Pitt,” Fauci, 79, said with a wide grin. “Of course.”

Of course!

The (cold?) open: Dr. Anthony Fauci (Brad Pitt) addresses the public to decipher the coronavirus misinformation Donald Trump has been spreading.

Read More »


The consequences of denying reality

With the slaughter of rats and mosquitoes, bubonic plague and yellow fever have been vanquished.

Now Oswaldo Cruz declares war on smallpox. By the thousands Brazilians die of the disease, while doctors bleed the moribund and healers scare off the smoke of smoldering cowshit. Oswaldo Cruz, in charge of public health, makes vaccination obligatory.

Senator Rui Barbosa, pigeon-chested and smooth-tongued orator, attacks vaccination using judicial weapons flowery with adjectives. In the name of liberty Rui Barbosa defends the right of every individual to be contaminated if he so desires. Torrential applause, thunderous ovations interrupt him from phrase to phrase.

“1904: Rio de Janerio: Vaccine”

Memory of Fire (Volume 3 of the Century of the Wind Trilogy)

Eduardo Galeano

This actually happened.

People, again, as then, have been told stories with no basis in fact.

They all came from the mind of one man.

One man, determined to bend reality to, ultimately, two points.

It’s not his fault.

Here is another interpretation of reality.

We hope, in an odd way, that Donald Trump will have it read to him when he’s receptive.

We hope he has it read to him before it’s assumptions and numbers are out of date.

We hope he listens.

Because we don’t have to have this many people die.

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll finally realize that the future of the few people he really cares about will depend on this possible, hard reality not coming into being.

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In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden hosted a discussion to address one of the most pressing issues facing our country and the world with special guest Vice President Al Gore.

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Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids.

It’s too little, too late.

The film features footage of Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Richard Branson, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Vinod Khosla, the Koch Brothers, Vandana Shiva, General Motors,, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Elon Musk, Tesla.

Recommended Link

Coronavirus order saves $1 billion from fewer car crashes

Via The Los Angeles Times: “California’s stay-at-home order reduced vehicle collisions on roadways by a little more than half, saving taxpayers an estimated $1 billion since the order went into effect, according to a UC Davis survey that estimated the impact of the order on traffic.”

Recommended Link

Carnival executives knew they had a virus problem, but kept the party going

“More than 1,500 people on the company’s cruise ships have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and dozens have died,” a report from Bloomberg says. How did this happen? Austin Carr and Chris Palmeri explain.

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Our two panelists worked for the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren campaigns in comparable roles. Charles Lenchner, co-founder of both Ready for Warren and People for Bernie, interviewed them both about how ‘distributed organizing’ has change campaigns, and the lessons we can learn from the 2020 primary so far.

This session will be appropriate for beginners and advanced attendees. Expect to understand more about the best in modern political campaigning, and a chance to hear some inside stories from this year’s campaign.


Trump was the moral test, and the Republican Party failed… It’s an utter disaster for the long-term fate of the Party. The Party has become an obsession with power without purpose.

— Veteran Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens (How Mitch McConnell became Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief)

Video Clip

Watch highlights from the sixteenth episode of Saturday Night Live’s forty-fifth season, hosted by Tom Hanks, with Chris Martin as the musical guest:

The cold open/monologue: Tom Hanks opens a special Saturday Night Live as host from his home, where he talks about recovering from COVID-19, does an “audience” Q&A and pays tribute to essential workers.
Read More »

Recommended Link

Trump regime: Americans on Social Security will have to file a simple tax return to receive a $1,200 check

“Many lawmakers and advocates for the poor say filing a tax return shouldn’t be necessary for people on Social Security since the government already knows how to send this population monthly checks. The $2.2 trillion aid package said that if someone has not filed a 2019 or 2018 tax return, the U.S. Treasury should get their information from Social Security, if applicable,” The Washington Post reports.


If people haven’t tried our digital resources, now is the time… We have access to many newspapers across the country, you just need a library card to get into them. We have lots of resources and information for (genealogy research) … stories for children … educational videos. We want to be open, but until we can, we’re still your library system.

— King County Library System Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum (Reporter Newspapers: KCLS pivots to digital during coronavirus pandemic)



A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality.

— Ed Yong: How the coronavirus pandemic will end


The need for a Green New Deal can rendezvous with the imperative of anti-depression public investment. Much of this sweeping proposal is on the drawing boards and has not been done for lack of funding. Some of it will take some advance planning. The time to start is now.

— Robert Kuttner: We need a WWII-size mobilization to stop COVID-19 from destroying the economy (The New York Times)

Recommended Link

Rupert Murdoch put his son Lachlan in charge of Fox. It was a dangerous mistake.

“Critics sometimes compare Fox, in its loyalty to Trump, to ‘state TV,’ but that description is off,” contends media columnist Ben Smith. “State TV implies command and control. The most-watched news channel in America has become, since the fall of its powerful founder, Roger Ailes, much more like the Trump White House: a family business where it’s not entirely clear who is in charge… Since the powerful Mr. Ailes was ousted amid a sexual harassment scandal in 2016, the network seems more and more like an asylum in the firm control of its inmates.”


What better platform is there going to be than the Olympic Games when the world has pulled through the virus… You’ve got a dynamic that will be even more powerful for Japan and the rest of the world. But you are going to have a tough road getting there.

— Former International Olympic Committee marketing director Michael Payne, speaking to The Associated Press in an interview about the likely postponement of the games (Tokyo Olympics seem sure to happen — but in 2021, not 2020)

Recommended Link

The world’s fastest supercomputer identified chemicals that could stop COVID-19 from spreading, a crucial step toward a treatment

“The novel coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge for scientists: The speed at which the virus spreads means they must accelerate their research. But this is what the world’s fastest supercomputer was built for.” CNN explains.