Justice Matters Most?


Just Make Money.

It’s incredible what the writers of Better Call Saul do. Is it a master plan that they’ve had in place that allows them to come up with things such as they did in last night’s episode, for example, using Jimmy McGill’s initials on his briefcase to demonstrate his transformation to the dark side? Or, even better, to illustrate that metamorphosis by having him go off on Howard Hamlin in the episode’s final scene exactly like he did the very first time we saw them together, only that this time Jimmy’s not goofing when he goes all Ned Beatty in Network on Howard? This time he’s sincere?

And even that shot above, where we see him contemplating his total abandonment of scruples in favor of fame and fortune? Astounding. Seriously, how do the writers do it? Has it all been blocked out from before Season 1 or are they just very good at thinking on their feet and using what has come before? It looks so seamless.

As for Jimmy, we’ve finally lost him completely to Saul. As I wrote last week, there was always a Robin Hood aspect to him in the past. Sure, he took short cuts and flat-out committed fraud, but it was always to help the little guy, be it little old ladies in nursing homes or Kim Wexler. When he and Giselle would scam a d-bag at a bar, they never actually cashed the check.

That’s over now. Jimmy just committed fraud in a courtroom (not a single reporter in court for a high-profile murder in Albuquerque? I don’t think so) in order to get a cartel member out on bail. And Howard, who we told you wasn’t that dumb, just called him on his bullsh*t. And both Howard and Jimmy know that Howard didn’t kill Chuck; Jimmy killed Chuck, if anyone did.

S’all good? Hardly.

No Poop For You

We love the idea of Larry David’s spite store, “Latte Larry’s,” recusing itself from having defecation facilities. What we don’t understand is how Mr. David (unless he did so in the season finale, which we have yet to watch) failed to have some fun with arguably the most renowned catchphrase in Seinfeld history by making a “No poop for you!” reference. Maybe a sign outside the restrooms?

Bidet Day*

*The judges will also accept “Geyser Will Helm”

Wondering if the toilet paper shortage (Mike Huckabee suggests a corn cob, Susie B.) will persuade Americans to finally fall in love with the bidet. Invented in France in the 17th century—there is no known single inventor; no one wants to take credit for it—the torrent of water module has never caught on here in America. But maybe now? To paraphrase a line from scripture, “Love your enemas as yourself.”

Market Watching

We thought about some of the comments on Friday’s item, about how most people didn’t have capital available after 2008-2009 to invest in the stock market and pull themselves back up. Here’s what we think: most people, and this may just be intentional by the (mostly) men who populate Wall Street, are intimidated by the stock market and never bother to learn it.

In the past decade I’ve worked with dozens of people who are incredibly hard workers but don’t have an advanced degree. Many don’t have a college degree. And almost none of them are in the stock market. Now, I know plenty of them (and this applies particularly to sports writers) who know their way around a gambler’s den—parlays, over/unders, +300 or -220, or even how to play craps—but if I mention the stock market, it’s always either, “No” or “I have it in a mutual fund” or “I leave that to my 401K.”

The same people who gladly spend half an hour a day in the fall tracking their fantasy team(s) in a league where first prize will earn you $500 are scared off by, or uninterested in, the prospects of making themselves “a 36-bagger” as our Faithful Reader has with her Amazon stock.

It would be nice if everyone was given a rudimentary education in the stock market in high school. The basics aren’t hard to understand at all. The first step in making the field of play more even is to demystify the way the top 5% remain the top 5%.

Tall Tale

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is 6’3″

Learned an interesting fact yesterday that we thought we’d share. Only 4% of men in America are 6’2″ or taller. And yet 36% of American CEOs are 6’2″ or taller.

I’ll never forget a very intelligent and decent man I worked with at SI, who was closer to 5’6″, telling me, “If I were six-feet tall, I’d be running this place.” And he should have. By the way, when I was there are managing editors (de facto CEOs of the editorial side) were 6’4″ and 6’2″.


Prine Time

Musician and songwriting legend John Prine is, as of this writing, in critical condition due to COVID-19. Here’s a clip from three years ago of he and Stephen Colbert performing “That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round.” Best wishes to Prine, 73, that he can beat it.


What’s to tell? Who looked good in baseball’s opening weekend? How we’re looking at an all-Catholic Final Four (Gonzaga, Marquette, Seton Hall and Villanova)? Steph Curry’s return?

Today’s Deep Thought: Remembering watching NYFD workers by the dozens rushing into the World Trade Center as both towers were burning and thinking, All those brave men are sacrificing their lives for a (mostly) lost cause. Can’t help but wonder about all the doctors and nurses and PA’s in New York City right now who are tempting a similar fate. Check out this story in the NYT.

Up Next? 3,000

This is not a scene from Chernobyl. This is the USA, 2020.

On Thursday we predicted 2,000 deaths in the USA by month’s end. It looks as if we’ll be touching 3,000 by April 1. New York alone has topped 1,000 deaths. And April’s going to be a spectacularly grisly month here.

April, Come She Will

April is usually one of the two truly beautiful months in Central Park (the other being October). This year CP has its own field hospital.

In what has become a pattern, the President made a statement downplaying the severity of the virus (“America needs to reopen by Easter”) and then was bombarded with information and warnings by the few people on his staff who don’t have dollar signs in their eyes. Now he’s advising Americans to shelter in place and chill out for the entire month of April. Which, sure, better late than never.

Full-Court Press

This month has been an extended lesson in the value of a free press and why an authoritarian such as Donald Trump (and his administration) despises it. If the only information we ever received was from the White House, you’d think that COVID-19 was “under control” and that nothing more needed to be done. Restaurants, bars and gyms, etc., would likely be open. You’d be hearing anecdotal stories from health-care workers you know, or friends or family who know them, that something was askew.

The tallies we receive daily on deaths and cases? Would not exist. The challenges that President Trump receives from the media, as he did yesterday, when he contradicts himself over statements he’d previously made? That wouldn’t happen. Yamiche Alcindor would be working at a gulag somewhere in central Nevada.

Makes you wonder how many people really have died in China. And Russia.

Procter & Gamble Is No Gamble

America: “I cannot spare a square. I don’t have a square to spare.”

MH Capital bought shares of Procter & Gamble (PG) as soon as this outbreak became a reality and we saw tweets of individual shoppers trying to corner the market on toilet paper. A quick glance at just some of the products P&G, based in Cincinnati, makes: Charmin, Bounty, Cascade, Comet, Dawn, Downy and the Swiffer!

It’s built for these times, and Jefferies, whose CFO died this weekend due to COVID-19, just gave it an upgrade this morning. P&G sunk to $96 last Monday, the worst day for stocks in I believe forever (but certainly for this month), but it’s now up around $115 this morning. Keep cleaning, and keep cleaning up with PG.*

*A reminder that most of the time we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Cancel College Football?

Apparently last week ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, a respected and measured voice in college football (unless it comes to which schools should make the playoff, occasionally), said that he could not see the 2020 season happening under the current virus-related climate. Quoth Herbie to

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens. Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

He’s right, of course (which reminds me: Any of you folks who pay attention to what Clay Travis says/tweets have any update on how he’s treating the virus now). But I imagine Herbie’s words were not welcome inside the Mickey Mouse Club and elsewhere. If college football were to deem it unsafe to play come September, how reckless would the NFL look if it went ahead and played (newsflash: I doubt Roger Goodell cares).

Another consideration: if there’s no 2020 season, I can see the NCAA allowing players to retain the year of eligibility, but also I can see players who want to exit to the NFL going. So there’s a chance we’ve seen Trevor Lawrence’s final game in Clemson orange. Moreover, do all schedules just get pushed by a year or do the game from 2020 just vanish into thin air? I’d assume the latter.

Also, if there is no 2020 NFL season, how would draft order be determined?


*The judges will always accept “The Worst Wing”

You wanna Make America Great Again? Toss everyone in this photo off the side of the S.S. Pandemic. I’m not sure if Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Con-her-way were also in the Oval Office for this moment, but man, what a Molotov Cocktail and a few locked doors and window might have accomplished.

Anyway, the President (of course) railed against the oversight measures in the bill, designed explicitly to keep his and Jared’s hands out of the cookie jar. The avarice has no ceiling.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher told Maureen Dowd what we wrote earlier this week: that the Democratic Party should rip up all the primary results and forsake all the debates and nominate Andrew Cuomo for President: a tough guy from Queens who is a second-generation America kicking the ass of a faux tough guy from Queens who is a second-generation American. Urge you to read Ms. Dowd’s column.

Even better is this Op-Ed from Roger Cohen in this morning’s New York Times, “A Silent Spring.” And if you’re too cool or too knowledgeable to read the New York Times, well, be on your way. You’re also the guy who thinks the Beatles are overrated.


Starting Five

We’re No. 1!

Yesterday the USA took the lead among all nations for most coronavirus cases reported (and we ain’t lookin’ back!). If you’re scoring, or gasping, at home, the tally at the top now reads:

USA………….. 85,000-plus cases

China………. 81,000-plus cases

Italy………… 80,000-plus cases

We’ve come a long way in just a week, and let’s give credit where it’s due: Donald J. Trump. Oh, and remember what he said one month and one day ago, on February 26?

“You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be close to zero.” 

Not so much.

Shutting off flights from China? Smart. Not testing anyone entering JFK or Newark from Europe, specifically Italy? Catastrophic.

I recall CNBC’s Jim Cramer around the second to third week of February opining that if he were a young reporter, he’d head out to JFK and interview passengers getting off flights from Milan to see if they had been screened in any way. Prescient.

Times Square usually only looks this way during or after a blizzard

Meanwhile, I remember walking through the Times Square subway station transfer area at rush hour three weeks ago today. Thinking of all the humanity rushing past me, commuters on their way to Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey, travelers from other continents making their way to JFK or Newark. And I remember thinking then, If it’s already here, there’s no stopping it now.

New York, with 39,000 reported cases, would rank as the fifth-most contaminated country behind only the USA, China, Italy and Spain right now.

The Death Calculus

I wanted to address a comment—by the way, I truly “appreciate” (Curb reference) the comments from everyone, particularly since I’m no longer on Twitter—from Kurt yesterday regarding the data on ways Americans find to die each year that don’t receive the hype that the coronavirus has.

The more I thought about it, the more these two thoughts reigned: 1) While Kurt has a point, let’s wait until the coronavirus goes through a full one-year cycle here (March 1, 2020 – February 28, 2021) to consider it alongside these other mortality figures and 2) I don’t recall anyone doing this sort of comparative calculus after 9/11, an event that claimed 2,996 lives.

You wanna talk about “the cure being worse than the disease,” let’s talk 9/11. We lost 3,000 people that day (the coronavirus should top that figure some time in the first week of April), we all knew that it was a one-time event, or not viral, we knew that it was highly preventable (if FBI higher-ups had simply listened to their field officers), and we even knew that no sovereign nation had perpetrated it. In other words, it was a crime and not an act of war.

In Iraq alone, we’ve lost 1 1/2 times the soldiers that were lost on 9/11 and oh, by the way, Iraq played no role in the attack. The Iraqi people have lost an estimated 150,000 people due indirectly to 9/11. I’m not even figuring the Afghanistan conflict into this.

But more than debating, yet again, the righteousness or malicious intent with our invading Iraq, let’s return to the original point. Did anyone say, in early October of 2001, Yo, we lose 10 times more Americans to the flu, what’s the big deal? No, instead we got a full dosage of Alan Jackson songs and a second helping of patriotism.

Curious, eh? Part of this is due to the fact that in 2001 we weren’t all up in each other’s social media grills minute by minute. Yes, the internet existed, but it wasn’t quite directly pumped into our veins the way it is now. I wake up, I check The New York Times coronavirus updates and see how many new dead there are in the USA. I can check back once or twice again before I hit the pillow and they will have updated the figures. We’re all living inside a Black Mirror episode these days.

Nineteen years ago, this same newspaper provided obituaries/profiles of every 9/11 victim, but they rolled those out over a matter of months. We are simply more triggered more often now (another reason I jumped off Twitter).

But my fundamental question remains: If America was willing to spend nearly $2 trillion to avenge an attack that was entirely perpetrated on one sublime September morning in the northeast, an attack that left nearly 3,000 dead, why wasn’t anyone then comparing the damage to other means of death in the USA annually? Oh, and yes, I get the irony of the “stimulus” package (it’s a relief package, people) that passed yesterday costing about the same.

Unprotected Sects

In Louisiana, a state climbing up the coronavirus rankings so fast that it would make Casey Casem howl with delight (currently 9th), the right reverend (Far Right reverend?) Tony Spell welcomed 1,000 congregants to his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge on Sunday.

Against the governor’s orders. Pelican Staters have been ordered not to congregate in groups above 50.

In the faith versus fate debate, there’s a part of me that is all for this. There’s really no faster way to eradicate stupid, without resorting to violence, than to allow the evangelicals to congregate all they want in the midst of a pandemic. Am I against religion? Let’s think of it more as me being in favor of freedom of religion.

I’m reminded of this scene from True Detective, early in the series, when Rust and Marty visit a tentpole religious service. And Rust observes, “All these people speeding to a red light” and “I think it’s safe to say none of these people are gonna be splitting the atom.”

Is it right to make fun of the ignorant? Of course not. You know what’s worse? Taking advantage of them. Which is what Tony Spell and, yes, Donald Trump are doing.

By the way, my “landlord” observed this morning that this virus, particularly in densely populated cities, is probably far more difficult on poor people. And then, after a few moments, “Isn’t that always the way?”

A light comes on. Maybe this is why President Trump doesn’t care half as much about the virus as he does the economy. A plague that eradicates both the old AND the poor? He’d call that heaven-sent.

And if we have to lose a few doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and lab techs along the way? Well, that’s just the price of progress.

Buying Boeing? Boing!

On Monday shares of Boeing, which had been up above $300 all of last year and through January and most of February of this year, were available for $91. Think about this: as recently as February 25th, Boeing (BA) shares were selling for $320.

The good folks at MH Capital decided to dip their beak in the waters and purchase some. Like, a lot. Either Boeing was going to go the way of Lehman Brothers (a stalwart American company that just vanished into thin air during a financial crisis) or it would experience a (government-abetted) recovery.

So, again, on Monday, shares of Boeing? $91.

Yesterday? Shares of Boeing were selling for $182.

Now, I’m no New York Times editorial board member, but if you can add 1 + 1 and also 9 + 9, I think the math comes out to… yes, that’s DOUBLE. A two-bagger, Susie B.? In just four days.

We’d love to say that we held onto Boeing for the entire ride, but we didn’t want to be hogs (“Hogs get slaughtered”) and got out, mostly, after a 33% gain. Who knew it would keep soaring upward… like a plane that actually works?

Anyway, it’s a volatile market. There are great opportunities here. Buy low. Sell high. Everything else is window dressing.

Stars 80

Two famously feisty folks turn 80 years old today: House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi and actor James Caan.

We’ll always admire Nancy for standing up to the Tangerine Tantrum and we’ll always appreciate Caan’s Sonny Corleone for standing up for his sister. Of course, one of them was/is a little better about controlling their rage.


by John Walters

Starting Five

Death March

By the time you read this, the United States will have surpassed 1,000 reported coronavirus-related deaths (the actual number could be twice that when you consider how many victims never were tested). It may be difficult to fathom, but when you went to sleep on the last day of February (29th), the first coronavirus death had not even taken place.

You may remember that it was not until Saturday, March 1st, that the first coronavirus fatality, in Washington state, was reported. President Trump reported that the patient was a woman in her 50s. It was a man. The next day, March 2nd, Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, noted that “the person was erroneously identified as a female.”

He never mentioned who erroneously identified that patient.

We’ve been rather conservative with many of our predictions, both here and on Twitter. Three weeks ago we said sports should shut down for all of March (it will be longer). On Monday we said the U.S. death toll would top 1,000 by Sunday (it was shorter). Then yesterday we had a record number of deaths for one day, 223. So here we are, on March 25th, and we’ll go ahead and say that the U.S. death toll, which took 25 days to get to 1,000, will be at 2,000 by April 1st. We’ll see.

Best thing we heard yesterday, from Dr. Anthony Fauci to CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “We don’t decide the timeline. The virus decides the time line.”

From Spring Breakers To Record Breakers

In just the past 12 or so hours, the United States has broken two very dubious fiscal records. First, the Senate passed a $2 trillion relief bill, the largest aid package in American history (remember, though, the government never had the funds for universal health care). Then this morning, a record-high jobless claims number of 3.28 million came in from the Department of Labor.

Sniff, sniff. Do you smell that? It smells a lot like socialism to me.

Just What I Didn’t Want*

*This will make sense when you read the above

Hopefully, you’re healthy. And if so, you may find yourself reading more books during this isolation period. This week I finally tackled my old SI colleague and friend Steve Rushin’s childhood memoir, Sting-Ray Afternoons.

I really enjoyed it. Steve and I were born 12 days apart in 1966 and it was enjoyable to read a master craftsman relive a parallel suburban childhood. Those of us who lived through it will tell you that we cannot imagine having grown up in a better decade than the ’70s. Steve hits on plenty of notes that will resound with anyone now in their 50s: Evel Knievel, killer bees, Saturday nights on CBS, the undeniable street cred of Levi’s corduroys (for Catholic school students), the woods behind one’s house/neighborhood where all types of nature were explored (our Crestview woods, in New Jersey, was where I spied my first Playboy mag), wood-paneled station wagons (ours was a Chevrolet), basements, baseball cards (I still have more than 4,000 of mine) that came in clear plastic packs of 42, etc.

It was also eerie to have so many personal connections: a big brother who could bench-press a small automobile and who’d impose his will on you, a sister who threw up inside the car on a family outing, an almost pathological connection with wordplay (Steve discovered palindromes, spoonerisms and alliteration way before I did, while I was reciting the alphabet backwards at age 5… and yet they never tested me for dyslexia, which, like gluten allergies, did not yet exist in the 1970s), and a first basketball coach (for him, Jim Thomas, or Jamal Tahoma; for me, Sgt. Ted Lovick) who was the Jesus of Cool.

The only cultural touchstones I don’t think Steve tackled, and I’d have to go back and read it to be sure, were The Exorcist (terrified me) and Bigfoot (growing up mostly in New Jersey, my friends and I knew our chances of spotting Bigfoot were minute, but we always held out hope). Oh, and the Son of Sam, but that was more a tri-state area phenomenon, I guess.

Alan Page, Rushin’s childhood athletic hero, was sort of a sports Bigfoot

Steve’s great advantage growing up, by the way, is the same one I had: He was blessed with the world’s greatest parents.

Finally, it’s surreal to read that Steve’s best friend growing up is now one of my closest friends (the husband of MH contributor Katie McCollow). Great read. Pick it up if you’re looking for a story of childhood, of the Seventies, of days when parents seemed more concerned with teaching you how to be an adult than with being your friend. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up, Nights In White Castle.

Here Comes Amazon (Again)

Relax, Susie B. I think your Amazon (AMZN) stock is going to be just fine. MH Capital bought a lot more under $1,900, by the way. Yesterday morning CNBC’s Jim Cramer said he could see it being a $3,000 stock after all the coronavirus mess plays out (and when will that be???) but even right now, how could you not love it?

If you need to purchase any item for the next month or so that is not food, your options are severely limited. CostCo? Target? Walmart? Sure, but in all of those places you actually have to enter and deal with people. Amazon, well, is there any large business in America (unrelated to pizza delivery) that is more suited to exploit the coronavirus crisis?

And, by the way, why isn’t Amazon in pizza delivery already? Seems like a natural fit.

Heisman Winners Given The Heisman

A trio of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks from the past decade, Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, were all allowed to depart their respected teams in the past week with not even a “Don’t let the door hit your tail pad on the way out.”

Of the three, Newton has been the most successful, leading the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl berth five years ago (where he will be remembered for a moment of ignominy related to a fumble). Mariota has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders (yes, it’s odd to type that). Winston seems to be drawing no interest: I guess teams aren’t in love with interception-slinging dudes who have problematic character issues.

Nine of the past 10 Heisman Trophy winners are quarterbacks. The first five are no longer with their original franchises and at least one, Johnny Manziel, is no longer in the NFL. The most successful besides Newton, who was the NFL MVP in 2015, is Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP. The jury’s still out on Baker Mayfield (trending down) and rookie Kyler Murray (trending up).

The first overall pick in next month’s NFL draft? It will almost surely be the reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow. There’s something about a Heisman passer that teams drafting first find irresistible. And sure, Burrow looks like the real deal. But here’s the truth: quarterbacks are almost never sure things. If you’re looking for a sure thing this spring, pick LB Isaiah Simmons, wideout Jerry Jeudy, or defensive tackle Derrick Brown (that’s right, we did not include Chase Young).


Have you ever seen (or been) a woman planning a dinner party? Or a birthday celebration? Maybe your wife? Now assign those same duties to a man or a husband. Chances are, and this is anecdotal experience based on what I’ve seen in both personal and professional life, that the women will do a far superior job. Far superior.

If that’s a sexist observation from me, so be it.

Women, by and large, are better planners than men are. They have to be. They’re biologically attuned to it. Women must plan from a visit by an unwelcome friend every month. Men literally must unzip and can stand behind a tree or bush (as I often do when out on a run). That’s as much planning as it takes.

As I listen to (male) governors and (male) hospital CEOs or officials plead for supplies (ventilators, gloves, masks) from our male White House administration, I begin to see a pattern of patriarchy. Men simply were not up to the job of planning for this pandemic (save the science editor at The New York Times, who was warning all of us about this weeks ago). I have no doubt in my mind that women would have done a better job.

Asking for ventilators now is like throwing a backyard barbecue, the guests are at the door, and you’ve forgotten the charcoal briquets. A few years ago I volunteered to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. One problem: I didn’t begin defrosting it until late Wednesday evening. Bad planning. That’s what men are good at: being bad planners (and not all of them are as bad as me, I understand).

Females are better planners. This was a job for them. But, of course, you know, her emails…


*The judges will also accept, “Gotta Keep ‘Em Ventilated”

Last night on CNN they had a waaaaaayyyy-too-good-lookin’ Hollywood E.R. doctor on (I doubt he’s the foremost E.R. physician in L.A., much less America, but he’s certainly one of the more telegenic) and host Chris Cuomo asked him a pertinent question: What exactly is it like to be deep in the throes of COVID-19, in terms of respiration?

The study doc, I think his name was Evan McMurray, told the viewer to imagine putting a treadmill on the steepest angle. Then turning it up to its fastest setting. Now get on that treadmill and see what your breathing feels like after two to three minutes. And see how long you can last.

The Hollywood doc was describing a very non-Hollywood death. Not only are most patients dying in isolation (See? All those years I never got married and being warned that I’d die alone? Turns out it won’t matter in the age of the coronavirus), but it’s not the black-and-white movie put the back of your hand to your forehead and cry, “I do declare!” and then passing out. Forever.

No, it’s literally gasping for breath. And no matter what you do you cannot get enough oxygen into your lungs. It’s frantic. It’s exhausting. If you’ve ever “killed” yourself in a track workout and remember those first few seconds after you’ve crossed the finish line, you know that feeling. Now extend it onward for minutes… hours… until you go into cardiac arrest.

And that’s what happens when patients don’t have ventilators. And patients don’t have ventilators. One reason, because our federal government wasn’t prepared. Another reason, because Donald Trump doesn’t want us “to become Venezuela.” If only every politician who thinks this way, from the President on down, could die the kind of ventilator-deprived death that thousands of people all over the world have died. They might then, and only then, begin to have an appreciation of what people are going through.

Of course, Republicans never have empathy. Not until they’re actually going through the pain themselves. That’s what makes them Republicans.


If the past two weeks have reaffirmed anything for me, it’s that the United States has a stupid means of nominating people for the most important job in the world. A few very ambitious people put themselves on a national tour where they eat food they’d never normally touch, shake thousands of hands and occasionally stand on a stage and verbally joust with one another. We learn who finished atop their class in mock trial but we don’t necessarily learn who’s a good leader. It’s as if the American public is an NFL GM and is being told to base your pick solely on the combine and not the three or four years of game film.

In the past two weeks, and particularly in the last couple of days, New York governor Andrew Cuomo (Dem) has shown himself to be a better leader than anyone in the White House and, to my eyes, better than anyone still in the Democratic race (I’d put Liz Warren up there with him). If you heard him explain his state’s plight yesterday, and heard him discuss how ventilators should be mobilized and how New York is the “canary in the coalmine” for other states, you heard someone whom New Yorkers can appreciate: he’s candid, he cares, but he’s not here to bullsh*t anyone or as MAGA folks on Twitter used to tell me, “offer positivity.” Who needs that right now?

I don’t expect the Democratic party to get smart all of a sudden, but this pandemic is a better crucible for leadership than 100 debates or town halls ever could be. And the people who are emerging as true leaders are Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington. I don’t know if either man would even want the job of President right now (I think Inslee ran and dropped out early), but as opposed to a pair of dudes in their late 70s, one who was flummoxed yesterday when his teleprompter went on the fritz, well, Cuomo and Inslee are superior.

The Democratic Party has the chance to do something bold and courageous at their convention, or virtual-convention, this summer. Throw out the delegate counts. Forget all the backroom promises and glad-handing. Produce a candidate who rose above during this crisis and demonstrated true leadership. And at the same time, younger than 75 years old.

Andrew Cuomo would make a terrific president.*

*As a disclaimer, we should all remember that about 18 years ago America was in love with a different Italian-American politician from New York and we all know how that worked out. So… you never know.


If you’re a fan of Better Call Saul—our favorite show on non-premium cable or non-streaming TV—then this post may interest you. If not, you may be bored by it. You may be a fan of the show and still be bored by this post. Writing is hard!

Anyway, some thoughts on Monday’s episode, “Goodman vs. Wexler:”

— First, as much fun as the montage of Jimmy directing the actors for the TV commercial must’ve been to put together (“And…ACTING!”), it wasn’t really necessary. As long as Jimmy/Saul had proof that Mesa Verde had used that photo as its logo without every paying for the rights, Saul had Kevin and Mesa Verde dead to rights. I’m a fan of the 3-person teenage aqua force film crew, and the show’s producers, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, must be as well, as if you notice they were given more lines in this episode than ever before. Still, this latest trip down local TV commercial-filmmaking was unnecessary. A fun goof, but unnecessary.

–Jimmy was right, and yet also wrong. His gambit versus Mesa Verde and Kim’s legal team was brilliant because it not only knocked the bank off its feet, but it also knocked Kim off hers. And if part of the problem here was that he needed to demonstrate that he and his girlfriend were not in cahoots, the only plausible way to do this was to legitimately surprise her. And, yes, piss her off.

Jimmy’s feeling here, I surmise, is that Kim is just not that good of an actor (Rhea Seehorn certainly is). She’s fine as Giselle but as Kim Wexler Jimmy didn’t think she could pull it off. So he struts into the office being a legitimate jerk and huckster and it works. Kevin and Paige are furious because they thought they only had to sign a $45,000 check (plus legal fees). Kim is irate because she feels betrayed. And Rich is confounded by the balls on this guy, but certainly he no longer feels as if his partner and Saul are working together.

And what happens? The $4 million ask was never serious; Kevin gets his call center, the photographer gets her royalties, Mr. Acker gets a pretty settlement, and Kim’s professional reputation remains intact. Moreover, and this is never really discussed enough, Jimmy is a fantastic lawyer. He really is, as Howard often says, “Charlie Hustle.” Not only did he think up this scheme, but he did the research (and had someone break in Kevin’s home) to find the photograph that became the Mesa Verde logo. All without a paralegal. He goes above and beyond.

–Of course, he now has a problem with Kim.When they meet up at home at the end of the episode, she’s understandably pissed off. She’s seem him con others, she’s often even helped. In fact, she’s enthusiastically thought up a few cons herself. But she always expected that they were a team. It’s like having a spouse who’s an actor and watching them play a role at a dinner party, but then suddenly wondering if the tears they’re crying for you are genuine (the subplot of a recent Curb episode, by the way).

Kim’s ready to break up with Jimmy because, as she says, “I don’t trust you.” Nor should she. My only quibble with this scene is that I would have had Jimmy be the one to suggest marriage. He’s the one who always is figuring ways to wriggle out of a tight squeeze. I don’t know why she’d suggest it, pissed off as she is. But I could’ve seen him suggesting it as a Hail Mary pass.

–Let’s talk about Howard Hamlin, the good-looking, good-natured cliche of a high six-figure attorney. In previous seasons it has been revealed that all of our worst thoughts (certainly mine) about Howard were off-base. He wasn’t the sinister one; Chuck was. He was simply doing Chuck’s dirty work for him.

He’s now come full-circle on Jimmy and wants him to join the firm. And Jimmy just keeps playing nasty pranks on him, pranks that are flavored with real hostility and malevolence. It doesn’t make sense, which tells me that we’re headed for a greater reveal at some point.

This is Howie do it

Is Jimmy doing this to work off guilt and anger about Chuck’s death? Is he picking on Howard as the schmuck who’s too simple to realize who his assailant is? And is there anything that jibes with the way Jimmy normally works and what he’s doing here? Jimmy’s not above just about any con, but usually there’s a method to his madness. In fact, one of the things that make him a likeable character is that his cons and stunts have a Robin Hood quality to them. He’ll fight dirty to protect someone who is on the lower rung or innocent (he’ll particularly do that if that someone is himself).

But here? There’s no upside that I can see to agitating Howard. Is he that angry that Howard wants him to join the firm? Is Howard too stupid to realize that Jimmy is behind his car being vandalized, behind his reputation being smeared at lunch? There’s something more going on here, I think. Waiting for the reveal.

–It’s been said, and I agree, that at the very least Better Call Saul is as good as Breaking Bad. The reason, for me, is because there are more characters we can visit and enjoy. You’ve got Jimmy and Kim (and Howard). But then there’s Mike and his family. And Gus. And Nacho. And the Salamancas. I don’t know the name of the actor who plays Nacho (I guess I could look it up…. hold on… the things I do for you people… Michael Mando) but he’s fantastic. He plays Nacho as a drug dealer with a conscience and a sweetness to him.

Mando is almost too handsome for this show

There’s a scene, I think it was last season, when they were collecting at the Mexican restaurant and Nacho knows that Lalo is watching him, so he gets rough with one of the dealers who was short with his collections. You can tell he takes no joy in it, but he realizes it’s part of the job. When he breaks into the house to retrieve the drugs, risking his freedom, he does so because he understands in the moment that it’s the best way to save his father. His father means everything to him, and his padre is an unimpeachably decent man. His moral bellwether.

Nacho is a fantastic, layered character. Street-smart, but vulnerable. Wry and likable. They could spin off an entirely new show from him. He’s sort of the Jesse Pinkman of BCS except that he’s got his sh*t way more together. And he’s smarter. Much smarter.

As Alan Sepinwall would say, “What did you think?”


It’s no one person’s fault, other than my own. The Twitter exile, self-imposed, that is.

Certainly I’ve been combative, cranky, contentious, combative (yes, that one gets two mentions), supercilious and impatient. And that’s just at home with my mom. So as for the blame, it falls squarely on me.

Also, in more than a few fits of pique, I’ve tweeted stuff that I’m just plain embarrassed about. And I’m sure it’s not very smart in terms of looking for work or keeping it. Maybe it’s best to keep feisty me out of the public arena. I’m sure a lot of people who know me think so.

The Trump presidency, mixed with a 4-ounce pour of coronavirus updates, has proven to be a toxic cocktail. From my perspective, I could no longer deal with the delusion, the cult-think, the selfishness, the willful ignorance, the cruelty, the avarice of it all. I got tired of dealing with those who still defend him or play the “biased against the President” card, or the “all politicians are alike” card. No.

Even when everything that the President said as recently as three weeks ago (or yesterday) has proven him to be a buffoon, a blowhard, and an ignorant jackass, there are still many on Twitter who come to his defense. Or look to point blame at others. Let’s put it bluntly: the things that he is saying, the actions he is taking and has taken, are going to be responsible for thousands of deaths (he doesn’t care, by the way, no matter what Mike Pence says, as long as the stock market climbs).

He’s the President. The Buck Stops Here. He even tweeted as much himself back when he was just a drive-by critic of the executive office. But now that he’s President, it’s “I don’t take responsibility at all” and “Try to get it yourselves.”

I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican. If you voted for Trump or did not. At this stage of the game, if you cannot see that his behavior is childish, irresponsible and deadly, I’ll probably have a difficult time taking your arguments seriously. And that’s when I become impatient and, yes, kind of a jerk.

Let’s begin with the scientists, the epidemiologists, the Dr. Fauci types. Let’s just collectively refer to them as Dr. Fauci, only because his traits embody them as a whole. They are sober. They are responsible. They are fact-driven people. And here’s what we need to remember: EVERYTHING they have predicted and warned us thus far has come true.

Two weeks ago The New York Times was supplying a bar graph of cases where the horizontal lines were in increments of 10. Last week, in increments of 100. Today, each horizontal line is an increment of 2,000. And those are just for NEW cases that day.

In New York, which as of today has about half the total of America’s reported coronavirus cases, more than 25,000, the number of cases are doubling at the rate of every three days. Every three days.

On March 19th, just last Thursday, the U.S. had 4,000 new cases of the coronavirus diagnosed. Today? 8,000.

And here’s what Dr. Fauci is saying: We need to social distance, self-quarantine, isolate, what have you for the foreseeable future. And here’s what Donald Trump is saying. We need to get the country up and running by Easter.

Dr. Fauci is Chief Brody. Donald Trump is the mayor of Amity Island.

I don’t pretend to know about the nature of infectious diseases or pandemics, but much like Kramer and write-offs, I know that Dr. Fauci knows, and he’s the one writing it off.

So when I hear someone, a tweep who’s followed me for years and who lives in the South, echo Donald’s refrain about America needing to get back to work ASAP, I get a little salty. No one who wants America to get past this pandemic is cavalier about the economy or financial hardships people are going through; it’s just that we should have our priorities in order and, oh by the way, it’s actually, long-term, the more economically feasible thing to do. Unless you believe Donald Trump Magical Snake Oil Salesman, who’s only been wrong with every original thought he’s had about this pandemic thus far.

So let’s think about a few things. One, the economy. Yes, it’s grinding to a halt. But to ignore the pandemic and put everyone back to work will mean that we’ll likely get five to ten times the number of cases which, forget about the greater number of deaths, will tax hospitals and doctors and nurses, who are already toiling past their breaking points, that much more. My guess is that if you were to ask any health-care professional what we should be doing, they’d say to extend the quarantine.

Second, the stock market is not the economy. If you’re in the top 20% of American earners or wealth, you probably care about the stock market (I’m not, but I do have a lot of money in the market and I have been somewhat crushed in the past month). You want America to get back to work because you want to see your portfolio go green again but chances are you are not one to two weeks away from being broke. Maybe one to two years, but not one to two weeks. So why should America prioritize your needs here?

If you are not wealthy but you want to get back to work, I get it. We all do. And that’s where Congress should be spending its money: giving Americans of modest means a weekly stipend to help get us through this pandemic while we do the smart thing: wait it out away from others. Use the money on essentials: rent/mortgage and food. You don’t need a new pair Nike Vapor Fly trainers right now.

As for big business, hold off on collecting debt, etc. We’re all in this together.

Buuuuut, if we all go back to work soon, it’ll be not unlike that guy in the lifeboat who leans over the side of the railing and takes a swig of sea water because he’s just that thirsty. The momentary sense of refreshment will lead, soon after, to an exacerbated thirst that was amplified by introducing more salt into his system. The quick fix is the bad fix.

Will there be pain in April and May if we all can’t work? Yes, but we’ll get by. We all have family or neighbors or, hopefully, a smart government. Oh, and by the way, there are plenty of jobs out there if you’re not too proud to work at Walmart or a major chain grocery store for a couple months (I’m not and will be happy to work at one).

Life is really very easy when you base your decisions on what’s right versus what will happen to your wallet. And something else I’ve noticed: when you make a decision based on what’s what’s morally imperative there are unforeseen consequences that almost exclusively are beneficial, either to you or to the greater public. When you base your decision on what’s economically feasible in the moment, the unforeseen consequences are almost always disastrous or at least corrosive long-term (I give you the bailout of 2008 which made corporations and banks even more reckless, which is why so many of them find themselves in trouble right now).

This thought occurred to me: an antagonist from the South was telling me that, bad as the outbreak is, that our emphasis right now should not be on stemming it but on getting people back to work. And I had to think, Has there ever been a moment in the history of the South where people chose what was economically expedient over what was morally right? Hmm. I wonder. Maybe someone can help me with that (there I am being condescending again; it’s true) and tell me how it all turned out.

A final thought, to end this on a positive note: We will get through this. As a country. In all of our history, through all of our crises, what has gotten us through is not worrying about our bottom line, but rather by doing what was right. We are bending as a nation right now because we have leadership, in the White House and the Senate, that is primarily concerned with the economy. But that’s not the emergency here. There are plenty of good and decent people, doing what needs to be done in spite of those people. They are the leaders.

I always revert to Winston Churchill, the greatest leader of the 20th century. When the Nazis were stockpiling arms in the mid-1930s, he tried repeatedly to urge England and the rest of Europe to censure Hitler. To stop him. Nobody wanted to hear it. Why? Because England was just coming out of a Depression and no one wanted to be bothered with the existential threat. Churchill was laughed out of Parliament, sent home to be Chicken Little in private and roundly mocked.

And we know what happened after that. And his country came to him on its knees and begged him, at first, to become Secretary of War. And later, Prime Minister.

Churchill had four things going for him, and they are what got him, and Great Britain, through many a crisis: 1) He was intelligent and informed 2) He was steadfast and principled 3) He was courageous and 4) He had a great sense of humor. All of his traits he transferred onto the British populace and they followed his lead.

Churchill started out as a soldier and journalist, by the way. Did both careers simultaneously before he moved into politics.