- Author John Scalzi gives the STBXPOTUS a colossal take-down on his blog today: "We don’t have to wait on history, but as it happens, this is how history will remember Donald Trump: Not as a forceful, charismatic authoritarian, but as a corrupt and pathetic wretch, who spent the final days of his presidency shouting at the walls about how the world is against him."
- Alexandra Petri: "Now is not the time to point fingers, Julius Caesar. Now is the time for healing." ("I am frankly appalled when I think of all the things that have been said on both sides, like, 'Death to Caesar!' and 'Ouch!'")
- National security experts, including the former chief research psychologist for the US Secret Service, advise treating the STBXPOTUS "like he's a terrorist leader."
- It appears that Ivanka and Jared wouldn't let the people protecting them into the house to pee, forcing the US Secret Service to spend nearly $100,000 over the past few years renting an apartment close by.
- Republicans in Congress supported intrusive security for everyone else in the past, but now that it affects them personally, they don't like it. How surprising.
- Since the Senate has recessed, presumably so Mitch McConnell can avoid an impeachment trial, President-Elect Biden still has no confirmed cabinet officials, forcing the incoming administration into an alternative plan after taking power next Wednesday.
- Chicago teachers locked out of the Chicago Public Schools online learning platform because they refused to return to unsafe classrooms found a poetic way of expressing their displeasure: they taught from the Board of Education President's front lawn.
- Chicago's regional heavy-rail system approved a $1.8 bn purchase of 500 slick new rail cars, which should start to arrive in 2024.
Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.
The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.
In other news:
- The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
- Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
- Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require a negative leap second soon.
Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.
Radley Balko has reported on criminal justice for over a decade, and I would argue he's the most-informed journalist on the subject in the United States. I therefore trust his analysis of Breanna Taylor's death more than most. In today's Washington Post, he lays out the facts about Kentucky law and about the case as far as he knows, and corrects some misinformation currently swirling around social media:
Wednesday’s announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron about criminal charges in the Breonna Taylor case set off a frenzy of misinformation on social media. Based on what we do know — which I’ve culled from my own reporting, reporting from the New York Times and the Louisville Courier-Journal, as well as from conversations with the lawyers for Taylor’s family — the decision to charge Detective Brett Hankison with wanton endangerment was probably correct, as was the decision not to charge the other officers involved in the shooting. If ballistics had conclusively shown that one of the bullets from Hankison’s gun killed Taylor, he could be charged with reckless homicide, but according to Cameron, the bullets that struck Taylor could not be matched to Hankison’s gun. There’s the problem that the police who conducted the raid were relying on a warrant procured by another officer, which was then signed by a judge. There were many flaws and abrogations in that process, but it would be unfair and not legal to hold them accountable for any of that.
But “not illegal” should not mean “immune from criticism.” Part of the problem was Cameron himself, who was selective in what information he released to the point of misleading the public about key facts in the case. (This raises real questions about whether the grand jury was also misled. That’s why an attorney for Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who fired at the police during the raid, is demanding that Cameron release the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.)
Furthermore, Taylor’s death was not, as Cameron suggested, simply a tragedy for which no one is to blame. The police work in this case was sloppy, and the warrant service was reckless. Taylor is dead because of a cascade of errors, bad judgment and dereliction of duty.
To simply blow this off as a tragedy for which no one is to blame is an insult to the life and legacy of Taylor, but also to the dozens of innocent people who have been gunned down in their own homes before her. And the effort by Cameron and others to make all of this go away by feeding the public half-truths that blame the victims in this story — Taylor and Walker — for Taylor’s death is inexcusable.
We could prevent the next Breonna Taylor. We could ban forced entry raids to serve drug warrants. We could hold judges accountable for signing warrants that don’t pass constitutional muster. We could demand that police officers wear body cameras during these raids to hold them accountable, and that they be adequately punished when they fail to activate them. We could do a lot to make sure there are no more Breonna Taylors. The question is whether we want to.
Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop is on my to-be-read shelf.
Today is the last day of meteorological summer, and by my math we really have had the warmest summer ever in Chicago. (More on that tomorrow, when it's official.) So I, for one, am happy to see it go.
And yet, so many things of note happened just in the last 24 hours:
Finally, Josh Marshall reminds everyone that Democrats are nervous about the upcoming election because we're Democrats. It's kind of in our blood.
A friend and I plan to go to a local beer garden this weekend—one on the Brews and Choos list, in fact—so we had to make a reservation that included a $7.50-per-person deposit. Things are weird, man. And if you read the news today, oh boy, the weirdness is all over:
Finally, closer to home, 4,400 restaurants in Chicago have closed because of the pandemic, 2,400 permanently. The Chicago Tribune has a list of the more notable closures.
Just a few things have cropped up in the news since yesterday:
- President Trump has threatened to send federal agents to "assist" with Chicago's efforts to curb gun violence, which no one except the Trump-supporting head of our police union wants. Michelle Goldberg calls the presence of federal agents in Portland a harbinger of fascism, while the ACLU calls it "a constitutional crisis" and has filed suit to reverse the policy.
- Also in Portland, an unidentified woman wearing only a hat and face mask nonchalantly walked in front of a row of federal police and danced for them. Said the LA Times, "She stood calmly, a surreal image of human vulnerability in the face of an overpowering force that has been criticized nationally by civil rights advocates." (Nudity is constitutionally-protected speech in Oregon.)
- The BBC also digs in and reports that the 1807 Insurrection Act prohibits this kind of federal intervention. Notably, the last time a president invoked the law against the express wishes of the state was in 1957, when Eisenhower sent troops to Arkansas to protect black children from white mobs.
- St Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner's office filed felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use of a weapon, but the Republican governor of Missouri has already promised to pardon the couple.
- The FBI arrested Republican Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and three others in connection with a $60 m bribery case.
- The Boeing 747 has become the latest casualty of Covid-19, with only one airline continuing to fly the jet in passenger service.
- The Chicago Transit Authority has started round-the-clock construction on the $2.1 bn Red-Purple Modernization Project, which my alderman acknowledged would cause "massive disruption."
Finally, the Covid-19 mitigation rollback announced yesterday has led to Guthrie's Tavern closing permanently. Guthrie's, which opened in 1986 and featured board games and good beer, will pour its last pint on Thursday.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is reporting this morning that last night, two Federal agencies using unmarked cars have started pulling people off the streets:
Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.
The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.
Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC, have been sent to Portland to protect federal property during the recent protests against racism and police brutality.
But interviews conducted by OPB show officers are also detaining people on Portland streets who aren’t near federal property, nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity. Demonstrators like O’Shea and Pettibone said they think they were targeted by federal officers for simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstration.
Charlie Pierce calls this "being softly Pinochet'ed in broad daylight" (despite the arrests happening at night):
LEO’s in camo? Unmarked vehicles? Disappearing people off the street without charge? Detention in something far too close to a police black site? (Ask some folks in Chicago how those work out.) I always knew I missed something not growing up in Santiago.
Why in the hell is this not a bigger story? A major American city is being softly Pinochet’ed in broad daylight. And, if we know one thing, if this president* and his administration* get away with this, it will only get worse. You’d have to be out of your mind—or comatose since the Fall of 2016—not to suspect that this could be a dry run for the kind of general urban mobilization at which the president* has been hinting since this summer's protests began.
Also on Thursday, press secretary Kaleigh McEnany took a moment out of her briefing to call Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot a “renegade mayor” because Lightfoot refuses to ask for the National Guard to come into her city. (To her credit, Lightfoot snapped right back.) The White House is on record several times as trying to delegitimize Muriel Bowser as mayor of Washington, D.C.
Portland may be a dumbshow for dummies, but it also looks like a dress rehearsal. This is not an "authoritarian impulse.” This is authoritarian government—straight, no chaser.
The good news, if we can call it that, is that 56% of Americans and 55% of likely or registered voters disapprove of the administration.
This sort of thing keeps happening, and explains why the police hate the public's ubiquitous video recording:
When CTA supervisor Martesa Lee attempted to lodge a complaint against a Chicago police officer in February, she was given a choice:
Drop her grievance against the officer she accused of pushing her out of an unmarked crime scene on a Red Line platform or face possible arrest.
“Is it worth it to you?” Chicago police Sgt. William Spyker asked her.
Authorities arrested Lee in front of her co-workers and a platform of CTA riders after she informed the sergeant she would not let the matter go. With her hands cuffed behind her back and tears streaming down her face, she refused additional opportunities to retract her grievance and regain her freedom.
Looking at the facts in the light most favorable to the police, I see no reason to arrest Lee. The time to arrest her for "obstruction of justice" would have been as she actually entered the active crime scene—but even then, it seems clear why the officer chose to let her go.
Spyker's instinct was to arrest someone who disagreed with him, who threatened to make someone on his team fill out some paperwork. He made a blatant argument to force: do this or I will inflict physical violence on you. "Spyker raised the specter of arrest within 35 seconds of Lee approaching him with her concerns," the Tribune pointed out. Despite Spyker's calm demeanor in the video, I'm guessing he didn't have a lot of other tools to use in resolving this dispute.
In fact, "it’s unlikely Haran would face discipline for removing Lee from the crime scene as he has a responsibility to protect the scene’s integrity," one source told the reporter, meaning that all Spyker had to do was take down the complaint and move on with his day. The body cam footage of Lee's initial confrontation with the police is murky at best about who was at fault. Spyker's handling of the situation after the fact is what got this into the newspaper.
(The title of this post is from Foundation by Isaac Azimov.)
First, some good news: New Zealand has not had a new Covid-19 case in 14 days, making it officially coronavirus-free. Given it's an archipelago of 3 million people more than 2,000 km from its nearest neighbor, they may have had some natural defenses against reinfection.
In other news:
An oddly quiet day, it seems. Probably because it's Monday.
Last weekend's tsunami continues to ripple:
- Ultra-right-wing US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), writing in the New York Times to great opprobrium, recommends sending in the troops.
- Former general and Defense Secretary James Mattis publicly rebuked President Trump in a 3-page letter published in the Atlantic, a move that Josh Marshall supports while adding that the letter also "its own form of militarization of society." Former Joint Chiefs Chair Mike Mullen also criticized the president earlier this week.
- In Washington, law enforcement officers from unknown parts of the government have refused to identify themselves or their agencies to reporters, adding to the chaos.
- Nationwide, last weekend's protests already seem to have caused an increase in Covid-19 cases, with many more expected over the next two weeks.
- Kevin Drum says the Republican Party must not just be defeated in November; it must be routed.
- Radley Balko says the raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., was illegal—but there is almost no way to stop the police from doing something like that again.
- Architecture critic Bryan Lee Jr believes "America's cities were designed to oppress."
- In Columbus, Ohio, employees at a local taco chain quit when directed to fill orders for local police.
- In Chicago, local liquor store chain Binny's sustained damage at 11 of its 42 locations, but vows to reopen. Also, yesterday Governor Pritzker approved legislation allowing takeout cocktails from licensed restaurants.
- April 2020 saw the largest number of job losses of any month since 1939, and May will come in second.
- Finally, Bruce Schneier takes Zoom CEO Eric Yuan to task for the firm's latest security misstep.
Just another quiet week in 2020...