This—Right Now—Is What Collapse Looks Like

Plus: Is Trevor Bauer a superhero or a supervillain?

Protesters walk past a restaurant in the Greenwich Village during a Black Lives Matter protest on August 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo alteration by Hannah Yoest / original image by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

1. Collapse

You’ve already read enough pre-debate talk. So let’s discuss something else.

Let’s get dark.

Pretend it’s 2014 and I come to you and say:

“Hey, six years from now Donald Trump is going to be president. He will have been impeached for trying to blackmail a U.S. ally into trashing the guy he’s running against for reelection. White nationalists will be stalking city streets wearing masks and carrying rifles. The economy will be in shambles. More than 200,000 Americans will be dead from a pandemic that hit us harder than any other country in the world. And Trump will be openly refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power post-election”

You would say:

WTF!?!

And then I say to 2014 you:

“Oh, the election will actually be pretty close, with more than 40 percent of the country supporting President Trump.”

At which point you would say: No. Nah-uh. Don’t believe it.

Here’s why you wouldn’t believe it: Because the scenario I described sounds like the apocalypse. It sounds like a society in collapse. And in 2014, you would not have believed this could be possible.

I want to share an essay from Medium by Indi Sajarajiva, a writer in Sri Lanka. Please drink in every word:

I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks. . . .

As someone who’s already experienced societal breakdown, here’s the truth: America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse.

Collapse does not mean you’re personally dying right now. It means y’all are dying right now. Death is sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always there. . . .

If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like “this is it,” I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.

Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all.

Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is.

When you see this, it’s collapse. Or this. Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Keep all that in mind during the debate tonight.

We are not in danger of collapse. Our system is collapsing, right now, while we watch.

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2. ACB

I got a lot of very thoughtful email yesterday from readers about my contention that Amy Coney Barrett is the kind of judge everyone should want on the court. I want to share one of them with you. I’m withholding my correspondent’s name, for obvious reasons. Let’s just call him Midwest Matlock:

For what it’s worth, I’m an appeals lawyer in Chicago, and I argue multiple times a year in front of the Seventh Circuit.  I’ve had two arguments before Judge Barrett during her short tenure, and, both times, I was late on the call so I sat through an entire morning of arguments involving other parties before I was called to argue my case.

In observing Judge Barrett throughout those arguments, including the ones I gave, she struck me as well-prepared, intellectually engaged, fair, and thorough. In short, from my experience before her, I found Judge Barrett to be exactly the kind of judge that anyone should want on the bench.

I consider myself a center-left voter, so I may not agree with her politics all the time or those of the people advancing her nomination, but the idea that Judge Barrett will be Trump’s Supreme Court pick lessens my anxieties somewhat because she is, at least, the very opposite of some unqualified nut job.

That said, I obviously also think that for the good of the country and the legitimacy of the Court, any appointment should wait until after the election/inauguration. But, this being 2020 and with the remnants of the GOP having long abandoned any actual concern for the common good, we could do a lot worse than Judge Barrett as the pick. 

Make of it what you will.


3. Trevor Bauer

The MLB “regular” “season” is over and I am having deeply conflicted feelings about Trevor Bauer.

Regular readers will know that I love Bauer. He’s great. One of the first guys to really revolutionize pitching. Also: very smart. And a loose canon.

I mean, who could ever forget this?

To my mind, what makes the “throwing the ball over the centerfield wall from the mound” even more awesome is the way he immediately took his medicine from the skipper.

He screwed up. He acted like a baby. He knew it. When Terry Francona told him to go cut himself a switch, he did it.

Bauer has also waged a one-man war against the cheaters in Major League Baseball.

Bauer is obsessed with spin rate, which is one of the most important characteristics of good pitching. The higher the spin rate on a ball, the less hittable it is.

In studying spin rates across the league, Bauer has long argued that when you see a guy with one spin rate for his whole career and then he joins a new team—let’s say the Mouston Mastros—and his spin rate suddenly jumps from 2,200 rpms to 2,500 rpms, the only possible explanation is that he started using some sort of sticky substance on his fingers.

Cheating.

Bauer has been such a hardass about this that back in May of 2018, he pitched a single inning where his spin rate increased by 300 rpms. And then, when people noticed and asked him if he had used a banned substance, he studiously “no commented.” He basically showed the entire world what was happening.

Anyway, this season Bauer has been unhittable. A 1.73 ERA and a WHIP at an un-godly 0.79. He should win the Cy Young.

Also, his spin rate is up. Way up.

And here’s where it gets complicated. People have noticed. And when they ask him about it, he all but admits that he’s using gunk, too:

Is this awesome or awful? I honestly can’t tell.

On the one hand, he tried to get MLB to pay attention the proper way for years. And now he’s single-handedly exposing the league’s hypocrisy on cheating pitchers, in broad daylight.

That’s rock-and-roll.

But on the other hand, this is awfully close to Barry Bonds territory. Bonds wasn’t as upfront about it as Bauer. But the underlying tension is the same: Best player gets pissed watching everyone else juice and the league do nothing, so he decides to juice just to show how good he would be.

Maybe this is a Harvey Dent kind of situation.