The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Day 22: in which our hero suffers a poignant loss

...as I took the last squares of toilet paper from the roll this morning. I had to dig into the Strategic TP Reserve just to meet ends.

Before I round up the depression and sadness from around the world this morning, I would like to point out that yesterday's high temperature of 27°C at O'Hare was the warmest we've seen since the 30°C we had on October 1st, 189 days earlier. I opened all my windows, and Parker got his pace up just a little bit. Today's forecast calls for perfect spring warmth (21°C) and thunderstorms during what we used to call "rush hour." (I will probably have all my windows open when the rain starts and have to close them very quickly.)

So what else has the world thrown at us this morning? In addition to the usual drumbeat of deaths and Republican malfeasance, this:

  • Just now, Bernie Sanders has ended his presidential campaign, leaving Joe Biden as the last remaining candidate. One hopes his supporters come back home before November 3rd.
  • Comfort foods, aka that crap your parents didn't want you to eat when you were a kid, have made an amazing comeback as people shelter in place.
  • Today is the 30th anniversary of Twin Peaks' debut.
  • For the first time ever, people have adopted every single animal from Chicago Animal Care and Control. I really, really hope people keep them.
  • The much-noted environmental benefits of shutting down a quarter of the world's economy seem great, but environmentalists have some pessimism about our return to full production when the emergency ends.
  • Paul Krugman likens the government's crisis response to "learned helplessness."
  • President Trump fired the inspector general just made responsible for overseeing the $2 trillion disaster-relief package, citing "bias." Of course Glenn Fine has a bias: he believes in evidence and government accountability. That makes him prima facie unacceptable to Trump. This comes days after he removed intelligence IG Michael Atkinson for similar reasons.

Well, now that I'm thoroughly pumped from reading the papers, I'm going to document an API while watching Schitt's Creek.

Day 21 of working from home

As we go into the fourth week of mandatory working from home, Chicago may have its warmest weather since October 1st, and I'm on course to finish a two-week sprint at work with a really boring deployment. So what's new and maddening in the world?

And finally, two big gyros manufacturers, Kronos and Grecian Delight, are merging. Kind of like all the lamb and stuff that merges to form gyros.

Enjoy the weather, Chicago. The cold returns Thursday.

A tale of two realities

Indiana University history professor Rebecca Spang compares the world's response to Covid-19 to the conditions that led to the French Revolution in 1789:

Fear sweeps the land. Many businesses collapse. Some huge fortunes are made. Panicked consumers stockpile paper, food, and weapons. The government’s reaction is inconsistent and ineffectual. Ordinary commerce grinds to a halt; investors can find no safe assets. Political factionalism grows more intense. Everything falls apart.

This was all as true of revolutionary France in 1789 and 1790 as it is of the United States today. Are we at the beginning of a revolution that has yet to be named? Do we want to be? That we are on the verge of a major transformation seems obvious.

An urgent desire for stability—for a fast resolution to upheaval—is in fact absolutely characteristic of any revolutionary era. “I pray we will be finished by Christmas,” wrote one beleaguered member of the French Constituent Assembly to a good friend in October 1789. In reality, of course, the assembly took another two years to finish its tasks, after which another assembly was elected; a republic was declared; Louis XVI was put on trial and executed in January 1793; General Napoleon Bonaparte became “first consul” in 1799 and emperor in 1804; Europe found itself engulfed in wars from 1792 to 1815. In short, life never went back to how it had been before 1789.

People sometimes imagine yesterday’s revolutions as planned and carried out by self-conscious revolutionaries, but this has rarely, if ever, been the case. Instead, revolutions are periods in which social actors with different agendas (peasants stealing rabbits, city dwellers sacking tollbooths, lawmakers writing a constitution, anxious Parisians looking for weapons at the Bastille Fortress) become fused into a more or less stable constellation. The most timeless and emancipatory lesson of the French Revolution is that people make history. Likewise, the actions we take and the choices we make today will shape both what future we get and what we remember of the past.

Keep that in mind as you read these indications that Republicans have entirely incompatible views with the rest of the world about most things:

  • Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt yesterday, calling the CO he removed last week "stupid," among other things certain to endear him to everyone in the Navy.
  • Conservative propaganda news outlets continue to repeat the president's lie assertion that no one knew how bad the pandemic would get, despite ample evidence that it would.
  • It looks like the Federal government is seizing protective equipment en route to Democratic-leaning states, but no one seems to know (or will admit) why.
  • Three academics who specialize in health policy warn that when, not if, Covid-19 starts hitting rural areas in force, it will get much worse, owing to the older populations as well as a general lack of hospitals and supplies outside of cities.
  • This week's New Yorker takes a long look at Illinois' response to the crisis, which is different than, say, Georgia's.
  • Wisconsin governor Tony Evans issued an executive order earlier today postponing the state's primary election until June 9th. The state was to hold its primary election tomorrow, despite the Democratic governor and Democratic minority in the state legislature demanding postponement or universal mail-in ballots. The Republican-controlled legislature refused even to take up the proposal, perhaps because, as other Republicans have admitted, more votes means Republicans lose. The state's top Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), said the governor "cave[d] under political pressures from national liberal special interest groups" like, one must assume, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a known hotbed of partisan Democratic thought.

Finally, ever wonder about the origin of those creepy plague-doctor outfits from the 17th century?

Max Boot states the obvious

The Washington Post columnist says he wanted to give President Trump some historical distance before pronouncing him "the worst president. Ever." Alas, events have overtaken desires:

His one major competitor for that dubious distinction remains Buchanan, whose dithering helped lead us into the Civil War — the deadliest conflict in U.S. history. Buchanan may still be the biggest loser. But there is good reason to think that the Civil War would have broken out no matter what. By contrast, there is nothing inevitable about the scale of the disaster we now confront.

The situation is so dire, it is hard to wrap your mind around it. The Atlantic notes: “During the Great Recession of 2007–2009, the economy suffered a net loss of approximately 9 million jobs. The pandemic recession has seen nearly 10 million unemployment claims in just two weeks.” The New York Times estimates that the unemployment rate is now about 13 percent, the highest since the Great Depression ended 80 years ago.

Countries as diverse as Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, South Korea, Georgia and Germany have done far better — and will suffer far less. South Korea and the United States discovered their first cases on the same day. South Korea now has 183 dead — or 4 deaths per 1 million people. The U.S. death ratio (25 per 1 million) is six times worse — and rising quickly.

Trump is characteristically working hardest at blaming others — China, the media, governors, President Barack Obama, the Democratic impeachment managers, everyone but his golf caddie — for his blunders. His mantra is: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” It remains to be seen whether voters will buy his excuses. But whatever happens in November, Trump cannot escape the pitiless judgment of history.

While James Buchanan can rest in peace now (despite still ranking 43rd* on the league table), the world still has to live with this dangerous cretin for another 290 days.

Meanwhile, "Uncle Bob" Martin wants everyone to remember that we software engineers are also heroes of this crisis. Without us, no one would be able to work from home, sequence the virus's RNA, or keep in touch with friends during the lockdown.

* Trump is the 44th person to serve as president, but the 45th president, because Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president.

Loyalty above all else

The President continues to fire anyone suspected of disloyalty despite the ongoing national emergency:

The president’s under-cover-of-darkness decision late the night before to fire Michael K. Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general who insisted last year on forwarding a whistle-blower complaint to Congress, swept away one more official deemed insufficiently loyal as part of a larger purge that has already rid the administration of many key figures in the impeachment drama.

Mr. Trump made no effort at a news briefing on Saturday to pretend that the dismissal was anything other than retribution for Mr. Atkinson’s action under a law requiring such complaints be disclosed to lawmakers. “I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible,” Mr. Trump said. “He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress.” Capping a long, angry denunciation of the impeachment, he added, “The man is a disgrace to I.G.s. He’s a total disgrace.”

At his briefing on Saturday, Mr. Trump likewise endorsed the firing of Capt. Brett E. Crozier of the Navy, who was removed from command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt after sending his superiors a letter pleading for help for his virus-stricken crew. “He shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” the president said. “I thought it was terrible what he did.”

Note that acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly got his job after former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer got the sack after resisting Trump's interference in the Gallagher case. For more, even though it will make you so angry you might cry, I recommend George Packer's description of how Trump has almost destroyed the civic institutions our country depends on.

Meanwhile, Charlie Warzel makes the case that "what we pretend to know about the coronavirus could kill us."

It's a wonderful time to be alive.

How the right-wing rulers of the world's largest democracy screwed their country but good

Man Booker-prize-winning author Arundhati Roy ("The God of Small Things") slowly immolates the Indian government for its unconscionable mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic:

On March 24, at 8pm, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi appeared on TV again to announce that, from midnight onwards, all of India would be under lockdown. Markets would be closed. All transport, public as well as private, would be disallowed.

He said he was taking this decision not just as a prime minister, but as our family elder. Who else can decide, without consulting the state governments that would have to deal with the fallout of this decision, that a nation of 1.38bn people should be locked down with zero preparation and with four hours’ notice? His methods definitely give the impression that India’s prime minister thinks of citizens as a hostile force that needs to be ambushed, taken by surprise, but never trusted.

As an appalled world watched, India revealed herself in all her shame — her brutal, structural, social and economic inequality, her callous indifference to suffering.

The lockdown worked like a chemical experiment that suddenly illuminated hidden things. As shops, restaurants, factories and the construction industry shut down, as the wealthy and the middle classes enclosed themselves in gated colonies, our towns and megacities began to extrude their working-class citizens — their migrant workers — like so much unwanted accrual.

They knew they were going home potentially to slow starvation. Perhaps they even knew they could be carrying the virus with them, and would infect their families, their parents and grandparents back home, but they desperately needed a shred of familiarity, shelter and dignity, as well as food, if not love.

As they walked, some were beaten brutally and humiliated by the police, who were charged with strictly enforcing the curfew. Young men were made to crouch and frog jump down the highway. Outside the town of Bareilly, one group was herded together and hosed down with chemical spray.

She also has a few choice words for Modi's rally for Donald Trump just as the crisis exploded on India's northern border. The whole thing is worth reading.

Self-absorption

I suppose, given how long I've lived in the United States, the inability of my fellow Americans to understand anything not happening directly to them should no longer surprise me. And yet it does.

Even as Illinois passes 10,000 known cases of Covid-19 (1,453 new ones just yesterday), with 300,000 cases nationwide, the president cares only about his TV ratings. People in rural areas are dying too, but not yet in the same proportions of population we're seeing in cities.

I had a conversation yesterday with someone who echoed what right-wing propaganda has said for a while. He thinks that we're over-reacting. Essentially, he thinks the damage to the economy from our "medically-induced coma" outweighs the few thousand deaths likely from the coronavirus. To these folks, because no one they know has gotten sick or died, it can't be that bad. Or it's no worse than (pick one) the 34,200 influenza deaths we had in 2019, or the 38,800 deaths from car accidents. Of course, those 72,000 deaths happened a few here and a few there, not all at once, and not all in the same place.

People seem not to understand is how contagion and incubation works. With a 5-to-9 day period between infection and symptoms, a single person could infect dozens of others before coughing even once. Or at all, since we know that this virus sometimes doesn't cause any symptoms at all. We can also demonstrate to some degree how many deaths we have prevented by stopping the economy for a couple of weeks. Had we done nothing, we may have had 2 million deaths. As it looks now, we might get out of this with only 200,000 deaths. And that's only from Covid-19; other diseases are still killing people. Hospitals in some places have maxed out, so many people can't get the medical attention they need.

But yes, in Chicago, with everyone working from home, with the curve flattening (despite the 1,453 new cases yesterday), it looks like the cure is worse than the disease. Just like amputating a gangrenous foot might seem worse than dying of septicemia. ("But I never had septicemia! It was just a gangrenous foot, so why did you cut it off? Now I have no foot!")

Meanwhile, even though the CDC have recommended everyone wear masks outside for a few weeks, President Trump—whose malignant narcissism makes him incapable of understanding anything beyond his own interests—said he won't wear one. Good. Let that go to its logical conclusion.

Today in your ongoing horror story

Oh, where to begin? I'll start with the article of most use to actual people:

Finally, satarist Andy Borowitz this morning jokes that "Fauci urges non-essential worker to go home." Three guesses who that worker is.

Ten million unemployed

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (including 178,000 in Illinois), following the 3.3 million who filed the week before. This graphic from The Washington Post puts these numbers in perspective:

Hotel occupancy has crashed as well, down 67% year-over-year, with industry analysts predicting the worst year on record.

In other pandemic news:

Finally, unrelated to the coronavirus but definitely related to our natural environment, the Lake Michigan/Huron system recorded its third straight month of record levels in March. The lake is a full meter above the long-term average and 30 cm above last year's alarming levels.

Your apocalypse today

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker extended the state's stay-at-home order through April 30th, which came as absolutely no surprise, as the state nears 6,000 total COVID-19 cases. Rush Hospitals predict 19,000 total cases in Illinois a week from now—far less than the 147,000 they predict would have shown up without the stay-at-home order.

In other news:

Oh, and the stock market suffered its worst first quarter. Ever.