The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Illinois vs Florida

Writing in the Independent UK, Chicago-based Noah Berlatsky argues that state leadership has made Illinois a lot better off than, say, Florida:

Illinois' achievement is both a model and an accusation. It points a way forward for other states. It also shows that the disaster facing the country now was thoroughly preventable.

State officials in Illinois have managed to contain the virus by acting early, aggressively, and imaginatively. In mid-March, with only about 100 cases in the state, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot cancelled the annual St Patrick's Day Parade, and Governor J B Pritzker closed schools. He delivered a shelter-in-place order on March 20.

At the same time, before the the caseload had reached crisis levels, Pritzker brought in proactive measures to increase healthcare capacity. He called retired doctors and nurses to return to work. He also ordered McCormick Place convention center to be converted into a 3,000-bed field hospital — a step that proved unnecessary, but which shows how seriously he took the crisis. The state worked ceaselessly to increase testing, and by early June had enough capacity that anyone in the state concerned about their Covid status could get a test. From less than 10,000 tests a day in April, the state now tests almost 40,000 people daily.

Pritzker's aggressive, multi-pronged efforts to promote masking, social isolation, testing, and healthcare capacity stands in sharp contrast to the actions of governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis. In March, while Pritzker was closing schools and businesses, DeSantis left stay-at-home orders to local authorities, despite a rapidly rising caseload. Since then he's consistently downplayed dangers from the virus, even as cases have spiked over the last week. Disney World is reopening, just as many hospital report they have already run out of ICU beds. And deaths are slowly but ominously creeping up. Florida hit a one-day record high of 120 deaths from Covid on July 9.

Still, Pritzker has shown how much can be done statewide despite Trump's malevolent incompetence. Illinois has not done everything perfectly. But there's no doubt Pritzker has saved hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives. He's largely done the right thing for his constituents. In the coming weeks, I fear we'll see how badly DeSantis and other governors have failed theirs.

We're not perfect, though. Yesterday, while walking the 10 blocks down Clark Street from Addison to Surf, I counted 37 total zeros not wearing masks, 3 half-wits whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses, and 34 good citizens with full mouth and nose coverings. So we have some work to do.

A bit of news overload today

Happy tax day! And now, we're off to the races:

Finally, Bloomberg takes a backward glance at the rise and fall of the Segway.

Sure Happy It's Tuesday!

Today's interesting and notable news stories:

Finally, Lawrence Wright explores how historical plagues, particularly the European one in 1347, can sometimes spark radical social change.

Who could have predicted this?

Yesterday, Florida reported 15,300 new cases of Covid-19, handily breaking the one-day record for new cases we set waaaay back in early April. We've now passed 70,000 new cases nationally in one day (another record), and 230,370 new cases worldwide (another record). We could lose control of this situation completely any day now--as Florida already has.

And yet, " 'There was no justification to not move forward' with the state's reopening in May, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday, according to NBC Miami."

Yes, folks, Ron DeSantis is that stupid. In fact, new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that lower cognitive ability correlates with lower compliance with social-distancing and other mitigation strategies.

Meanwhile, even as Illinois set a record for the number of tests administered in a day, while our new cases per day hovers around 1,000, other parts of the country continue to experience testing shortages and delays getting results.

And why is this happening? President Donald J. Trump takes the lead in his stupid, craven, and psychopathic failure to do anything remotely useful to stop the spread of this virus. This graph circulating around social media illustrates the problem:

We were close. We had stopped the spread, and even reversed it. Then our idiot president and a few sycophantic Republican governors reversed our progress.

Just look at that graph. Look at it. If that doesn't enrage you, then please get your head out of your rectum.

November 3rd is 113 days away.

"Unprecedented, historic corruption"

The pardon power granted in Article II of the Constitution exists so that the President can save people from true miscarriages of justice. Well, originally, anyway. Now it exists to save President Trump's friends from their own misdeeds, as demonstrated once again last night:

President Trump has said he learned lessons from President Richard M. Nixon’s fall from grace, but in using the power of his office to keep his friend and adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. out of prison he has now crossed a line that even Mr. Nixon in the depths of Watergate dared not cross.

For months, some of Mr. Trump’s senior White House advisers warned him that it would be politically self-destructive if not ethically inappropriate to use his clemency power to help Mr. Stone, who was convicted of lying to protect the president. But in casting aside their counsel on Friday, Mr. Trump indulged his own sense of grievance over precedent and restraint to reward an ally for his silence.

Democrats immediately condemned the commutation of Mr. Stone’s 40-month prison term and vowed to investigate, just as Mr. Trump’s advisers had predicted they would. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the move an act of “staggering corruption,” said she would pursue legislation to prevent the president from using his power to protect those convicted of a cover-up on his own behalf, although that would face serious constitutional hurdles and presumably would never be signed into law by Mr. Trump.

Utah US Senator Mitt Romney (R) condemned the action immediately:

So did just about everyone else except other Congressional Republicans:

The list goes on. All of them seem to agree with Max Boot: "the worst president ever keeps getting worse."

Let's recall what Roger Stone did: he acted as an interlocutor between the Trump 2016 Campaign and the Russian intelligence services to help get Trump elected, and then lied in court about this to protect his boss. (Fun fact: it's not illegal to work with an adversarial intelligence service openly. The crime here was providing foreign aid to an election campaign.) Some might call that pattern of behavior treason. Some certainly would if the perpetrator were a Democrat, or if the president were one. But not the modern Republican party.

As Roger Cohen wrote yesterday, we're going into "the most dangerous phase of Trump's rule," and we're still 115 days from the election.

The cost of the president's ego

So many months and so many lies ago, the President of the United States doctored a weather map with a Sharpie so that he wouldn't be wrong about saying a hurricane was going to hit Alabama. Yes, he'd rather look stupid than incorrect. But OK, whatever.

Today the Dept of Commerce Inspector General released a 107-page report (!) on the incident, which must have cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time and effort, not to mention it still makes the president look stupid. TPM has more:

[T]he inspector general’s report was delayed for several days because staff from Ross’ office were “actively preventing” its release with vague objections about privileged information, Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson alleged in a letter last week. The published report Wednesday barely had any redactions.

In response to the report, an attorney for the Commerce Department wrote that “the absence of any formal recommendation shows that there were no major flaws in the Department’s handling of this situation.” Walsh, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become the department’s official general counsel, said the report’s conclusions were “unsupported by any of the evidence or factual findings that the report itself lays out.”

But the bottom line, per the report, is a simple one: “It was unnecessary to correct the accuracy of a 5-day-old tweet.”

Right. And the president was still wrong.

No debates unless...

Tom Friedman gives Joe Biden some good advice:

First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. Biden has already done so, and they are on his website. Trump must, too. No more gifting Trump something he can attack while hiding his own questionable finances.

And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.

Of course, Trump will stomp and protest and say, “No way.” Fine. Let Trump cancel. Let Trump look American voters in the eye and say: “There will be no debate, because I should be able to continue hiding my tax returns from you all, even though I promised that I wouldn’t and even though Biden has shown you his. And there will be no debate, because I should be able to make any statement I want without any independent fact-checking.”

We'll see. But really, Biden has no reason to debate Trump otherwise. (Note: I am a financial contributor to Joe Biden's campaign.)

In other news:

Back to coding.

After-work reading

I was in meetings almost without break from 10am until just a few minutes ago, so a few things have piled up in my inbox:

And no matter where you are in the world, you can attend Apollo After Hours next Friday at 19:00 CDT / midnight UTC. It's going to be a ton of fun.

NYC district attorney may obtain Trump financial records

The US Supreme Court handed down a pair of 7-2 decisions this morning about who can see the president's financial records, both written by Chief Justice John Roberts, and both dissented by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

In the first, Trump v Vance, private citizen Donald Trump appealed a decision of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a district court order to Trump's accountants to hand over documents to a grand jury empaneled by New York City District Attorny Cyrus Vance, Jr. Citing precedents going back to Aaron Burr's treason trial in 1807, the Court affirmed the lower court order, holding: "Article II and the Supremacy Clause do not categorically preclude, or require a heightened standard for, the issuance of a state criminal subpoena to a sitting President." Trump appointees Kavanaugh and Gorsuch concurred, but said the lower court should "how to balance the State’s interests and the Article II interests." Thomas, dissenting, agrees "with the majority that the President does not have absolute immunity from the issuance of a grand jury subpoena," but "he may be entitled to relief against its enforcement" (emphasis in original). Alito, consistent with his expansive views on presidential authority, believes a state prosecutor has no authority even to investigate a sitting president for state crimes, even if the alleged conduct occurred before the person was president.

Just a few minutes later, the Court announced its decision in Trump v Mazars, vacating the DC District and Circuit Courts decisions granting the House of Representatives authority to subpoena the president's financial records from his accounting firm, holding "[t]he courts below did not take adequate account of the significant separation of powers concerns implicated by congressional subpoenas for the President’s information." Roberts distinguished this case from Vance and others, writing:

This case is different. Here the President’s information is sought not by prosecutors or private parties in connection with a particular judicial proceeding, but by committees of Congress that have set forth broad legislative objectives. Congress and the President—the two political branches established by the Constitution—have an ongoing relationship that the Framers intended to feature both rivalry and reciprocity.

When Congress seeks information “needed for intelligent legislative action,” it “unquestionably” remains “the duty of all citizens to cooperate.” Watkins, 354 U. S., at 187 (emphasis added). Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns.

Again, Alito and Thomas dissented. Thomas would reverse the decision rather than vacate it, because he "would hold that Congress has no power to issue a legislative subpoena for private, nonofficial documents—whether they belong to the President or not. Congress may be able to obtain these documents as part of an investigation of the President, but to do so, it must proceed under the impeachment power." Given that the President stonewalled Congress during the impeachment earlier this year, and the Supreme Court essentially said that's Congress's problem, not ours, Thomas would essentially hold the president immune from any discovery process. Alito agrees with Thomas to some extent, but believes "legislative subpoenas for a President’s personal documents are inherently suspicious," and would require Congress to "provide a description of the type of legislation being considered," which they did, but apparently not to Alito's satisfaction.

The president's response was as measured and thoughtful as one might expect:

He has spent the last hour whining like a spoiled toddler narcissistic, demented old man about this.

Sadly, none of this information will come out before the election. Once he's out of office in January, however, expect that his businesses will not survive long in their present forms. I really can't wait to see what he's been hiding.

Somebody call "lunch!"

Stuff to read:

Finally, last June, Jennifer Giesbrecht wrote that "Babylon 5 is the greatest, most terrible SF series." She's mostly right.