Tomorrow a good portion of the United States will celebrate our independence from the UK. NPR this morning reminded me about the portion of the US that Frederick Douglass described in his speech to the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y., on 5 July 1852.
I think everyone should take 15 minutes and listen to it. Or read it, in full here. Or watch James Earl Jones read part of it here:
The Apollo Chorus of Chicago annual benefit will take place at 7pm on Friday July 17th. We have to do it online, of course, but the original plan had us at Mayne Stage on April 4th. I had to go up there tonight to take some publicity photos, and I remembered I took this photo in April 1993:
Here's the same scene two hours ago:
Mayne Stage is on the left, in the space that apparently used to be the Cobbler's Mall behind the Poolgogi Steak House.
The neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the last 27 years, though the ethnic diversity still remains. Obviously there are a few new buildings, and the garish signs have come down from the liquor store and Morse Gyros take-out. (Both are still there.) And the Lunt Bus still stops at the Morse El, just as it did when my father was a kid.
A couple on the north side of Chicago planted hedges around a patch of public park land and fought the city's attempts to get the land back for 15 years. Then a local blog got ahold of the story, and the hedges came right out:
About 8:30 a.m., a landscaping crew was at the home in the 3000 block of North Lake Shore Drive West to remove the hedgerow on public land. The politically connected homeowner, businessman Michael Tadin Jr., confirmed he ordered the bushes removed.
As neighbors watched the hedgerow being torn out, one person passing by said, “I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.”
Another walked up, threw an egg at the house and left a bag of dog poop on the lawn.
Block Club revealed Tuesday that Tadin Jr. and his wife, Natalie Tadin, planted hedges around the 3,000 square feet of Chicago Park District land in front of their home, according to an inspector general report issued last week.
The entire block from Wellington to Barry that faces Lake Shore Drive West was previously a convent for a religious order. About 15 years ago, the mansion and chapel on Barry were converted to residential use when the property was sold and the land around it was rezoned.
I have a particular interest in this story because I used to live directly above the property in question. I'll try to find a photo of it from before the convent closed.
As I take a minute from banging away on C# code to savor my BBQ pork on rice from the local Chinese takeout, I have these to read:
And today's fortune cookie says: "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst in bed."
Josh Marshall points out that talking about "reopening," before we have a cure or vaccine for Covid-19, is facile at best and dangerous at worst:
From the start this metaphor has saddled us with distorting language and a distorted concept which has enabled and driven bad policy. It suggests a binary choice when one doesn’t exist. The impact goes beyond semantics.
Most of Europe and East Asia have been able to stamp out COVID or reduce it to very low, manageable levels. We haven’t. You may have heard about that new outbreak in Beijing. By the time an aggressive eradication plan had stamped it out approximately 250 people had been infected. New York State has two or three times that many cases today and it’s doing better than any other state in the country.
There’s no reason beyond conscious choice and policy failure to explain this. Testing is critical. Absolutely critical. But the truth is that the scale of testing continues to rise in the US and it is currently at or above levels in most of these other countries which are now emerging into a new normal of economic and social life. But testing is to a large degree like an instrument panel on a plane. It tells you where you’re going. Up? Down? Fast? Slow? Are you flying into a mountain? In most of the states which let down their guard and allowed indoor dining and bars to reopen the testing sent really clear signals. The tests are there to tell you what’s coming so you can react. In many of these states the testing data said, “You’re flying into the mountain.” They kept flying straight. You can’t blame that on the testing.
We’ve learned a lot we didn’t know four months ago. At least for Europe and North America masking is perhaps the biggest example. Almost as critical is the importance of indoor transmission. Indoors, close quarters, poor ventilation or air conditioning, lots of loud talking. These all make for COVID free fire zones. They are close to the definition of bars and night clubs. Reopening them before COVID is beaten down to negligible levels is madness. And even then it’s probably a bad idea.
There’s no “reopening”. There are different mitigation strategies and there’s how seriously you take the whole enterprise.
Even Illinois, which had seen consistent declines in infection and positive test rates has now leveled off again. I think this meme sums it up pretty well:
Welp, it's July now, so we've completed half of 2020. (You can insert your own adverb there; I'll go with "only.")
A couple of things magically changed or got recorded at midnight, though. Among them:
And finally, I am now officially the President of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. My first task: ensure that our annual fundraiser, Apollo After Hours, brings in the dough. More on that later.
Vox has called the US Senate Democratic Party primary in Kentucky for Amy McGrath, but the main national outlets don't have it yet. [Note: I have contributed financially to Amy McGrath's campaign.] So while I wait for confirmation from the Washington Post (or, you know, the Kentucky State Board of Elections), here's other fun stuff:
- As threatened, the European Union has barred travelers from the United States from entering, because of our shit response to Covid-19.
- The shit response includes record numbers of deaths in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, even as Illinois recorded the fewest deaths since April yesterday.
- The shit response may have something to do with an intelligence failure at the highest levels of government, as Carl Bernstein documents yet another day of White House officials "expressing concern" (but still collaborating).
- The shit response moved David Frum to state the obvious: "This is Trump's Plague Now."
- McSweeney's has cataloged 759 instances (so far) of "Trump's Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions, and Crimes."
- Facebook plans to build an $800 million data center in DeKalb, about 90 km west of Chicago.
Finally, Jeffrey Toobin attempts to explain "Why the Mueller Investigation Failed."
Update: NBC calls Kentucky for McGrath.
Need another reason to vote for Biden? Slower news cycles. Because just this morning we've had these:
So, you know, nothing too interesting.
Private pilot and journalist Jim Fallows suggests an answer:
Consider a thought experiment: What if the NTSB were brought in to look at the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic? What would its investigation conclude? I’ll jump to the answer before laying out the background: This was a journey straight into a mountainside, with countless missed opportunities to turn away. A system was in place to save lives and contain disaster. The people in charge of the system could not be bothered to avoid the doomed course.
The organization below differs from that of a standard NTSB report, but it covers the key points. Timelines of aviation disasters typically start long before the passengers or even the flight crew knew anything was wrong, with problems in the design of the airplane, the procedures of the maintenance crew, the route, or the conditions into which the captain decided to fly. In the worst cases, those decisions doomed the flight even before it took off. My focus here is similarly on conditions and decisions that may have doomed the country even before the first COVID-19 death had been recorded on U.S. soil.
What happened once the disease began spreading in this country was a federal disaster in its own right: Katrina on a national scale, Chernobyl minus the radiation. It involved the failure to test; the failure to trace; the shortage of equipment; the dismissal of masks; the silencing or sidelining of professional scientists; the stream of conflicting, misleading, callous, and recklessly ignorant statements by those who did speak on the national government’s behalf. As late as February 26, Donald Trump notoriously said of the infection rate, “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero.” What happened after that—when those 15 cases became 15,000, and then more than 2 million, en route to a total no one can foretell—will be a central part of the history of our times.
But what happened in the two months before Trump’s statement, when the United States still had a chance of containing the disease where it started or at least buffering its effects, is if anything worse.
How 40% of the voting public can still support this administration baffles me.
So, did the president know about and fail to act on this intelligence, or did his staff conceal it from him? I don't really care; either answer should disqualify them from continuing to work in the White House:
United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions. Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.
The emerging details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported on Friday was briefed to President Trump and discussed by the White House’s National Security Council at an interagency meeting in late March. The Trump administration had yet to act against the Russians, the officials said.
Mr. Trump defended himself on Sunday by denying that he had been briefed on the intelligence, expanding on a similar White House rebuttal a day earlier, as leading congressional Democrats and even some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that the administration had yet to authorize.
Read that last graf again: the president responded not by demanding Russia stop the practice, not by sending his flaccid Secretary of State to excoriate Putin in person, not by doing anything that a normal person would do in this situation. No, the president flatly lied that he just didn't know about the contents of his daily intelligence brief. I guess he didn't want to risk offending his KGB case officer.
Remember back in 2015 and 2016 when we worried a lot about Russia's influence over Trump? This is not something I wanted to be correct about, but the evidence is pretty damning.