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?
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.
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:
- During the Obama administration, the Health and Human Services Department paid $14 million to a Pennsylvania firm to manufacture low-cost ventilators that we could stockpile for emergencies. They took the money and never manufactured the inexpensive devices, preferring to make expensive ones instead.
- Kellyanne Conway previewed the lies the Trump Campaign will spread this fall, in particular that "no one could have predicted" the pandemic that literally everyone paying attention predicted.
- Speaking of moronic right-wing authoritarians, the dictator of Belarus believes that virus-control efforts are psychotic, and refuses to do anything to halt its spread there.
- Two economists at UC-Berkeley argue that the American relief effort, which focused on paying people directly, could have prevented lasting damage to the economy by paying employers to keep them employed instead, as most other democracies have done.
- Consumer Reports recommends using actual disinfectants to disinfect, not homemade sanitizer, vodka, vinegar, or tea tree oil.
- Stores have made changes to keep people separated and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
- Looking to the near future, Libby Watson argues in The New Republic that COVID-19 will make our ongoing health insurance crisis unimaginably worse.
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, writing in the New Yorker, examines how the virus behaves within a human body.
- Finally, our very own moronic right-wing would-be authoritarian has used the distraction of the virus to roll back all of Obama's climate policy, today by loosening environmental standards for cars.
Oh, and the stock market suffered its worst first quarter. Ever.
Just a few articles of note today:
- The City of Chicago urges residents to call 311 to report non-essential business remaining open.
- President Trump admitted on "Fox & Friends" this morning that adopting common-sense election reforms would mean "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." (Unless, I suppose, they changed their policies to match the mainstream, right?)
- The Times reports on General Motors' efforts to produce 2,000 ventilators a month (an order-of-magnitude change from now) even as the president slagged the company on Twitter.
- Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's narcissism has never been more dangerous."
- Richard Florida examines how society will need to change after the current stay-at-home phase of the pandemic passes.
And finally, London took advantage of reduced traffic on March 24th to give the Abbey Road zebra crossing a much-overdue paint job.
Starting tomorrow at 5pm, through April 7th, Illinois will be on a "stay-at-home" order:
Residents can still go to the grocery stores, put gas in their cars, take walks outside and make pharmacy runs, the governor said at a Friday afternoon news conference. All local roads, including the interstate highways and tollways, will remain open to traffic, as well.
“For the vast majority of you already taking precautions, your lives will not change very much,” Pritzker said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “now is not the time for half measures" and urged people to follow the order to stay at home.
“You must stay home,” she said. “This is not a lockdown, or martial law.”
“This is clearly not a decision that was made lightly, nor by one person," she said. “These are choices that must be made for the good of all residents."
This won't change anything much for me, as I have worked from home almost every day this month. But my friend who owns a book shop, my friends who teach, my friends who make their living through music—they're hosed. I'm not even sure my dog walker can continue working, which doubly sucks for him because he's also a jazz musician.
Where is Federal leadership such as Boris Johnson (!) just displayed in the UK? Oh, right. We elected a clown in 2016 and they elected one last year, but theirs went to Oxford.
I spent an hour trying (unsuccessfully) to track down a monitor to replace the one that sparked, popped, and went black on me this morning. That's going to set me back $150 for a replacement, which isn't so bad, considering.
Less personally, the following also happened in the last 24 hours:
I don't have a virus, by the way. I'm just working from home because the rest of my team are also out of the office.
Finally, looking at dating like a marketplace doesn't make a lot of sense in practice.
Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:
Well, one of those is good news...
In case you had questions about what to do when THC becomes legal for recreational use in Illinois in six weeks, Chicago Public Media has your back:
What type of high are you looking for?
The type of high you get depends on what strain of weed you use.
The three most common categories are indicas, sativas and hybrids. Indica is a strain of weed that’s meant to help you relax or sleep. Sativa is a strain of weed that’s supposed to give you energy. And there are hybrid strains that are a combination of both strains.
Most forms of weed (joints, edibles, concentrates) come in all three strains.
How high do you want to get?
The answer to this question lies in the concentration of CBD and THC in the product you choose. THC is the ingredient that gets you high and CBD is the ingredient that’s believed to relax your mind, Vale said. So the higher the concentration of THC, the higher you’re likely to get.
You’ll also pay more for highly THC-concentrated products, because the state taxes weed at different levels depending on how strong it is.
Here's what the purchasing process looks like
All purchases are cash only, though many dispensaries have ATMs and some have created their own credit cards.
You’ll need to present your I.D. when you walk into the store in order to prove that you’re 21 or older, and then potentially again when you’re purchasing. Illinois lawmakers say this information won’t be stored.
And it’ll be expensive at first: a gram of weed (about enough for a joint or two) currently runs for $20 on the medical market — and $15 on the black market. That’ll automatically be anywhere from $24 to $27 per recreational gram because of steep taxes. Illinois residents could also see a spike in prices due to high demand and anticipated supply shortages as the industry gets off the ground.
All good to know. I'm fortunate that one of the first dispensaries to get a recreational sales license in the state is less than a kilometer from my house. What a relaxing way to start 2020!
It's the last weekday of summer. Chicago's weather today is perfect; the office is quiet ahead of the three-day weekend; and I'm cooking with gas on my current project.
None of that leaves a lot of time to read any of these:
Now, to find lunch.