The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What's a Wednesday again?

Remember slow news days? Me neither.

  • Republican legislators and business owners have pushed back on Illinois Governor JB Pritzker's plan to re-open the economy, preferring instead to force their employees into unsafe situations so they can return to making money.
  • Professional dilettante Jared Kushner's leadership in getting a bunch of kids to organize mask distribution went about as well as one might predict.
  • More reasonable people simply see how it means we're going to be in this a while.
  • California has sued Uber and Lyft for violating AB5, claiming the two ride-sharing companies “gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by inappropriately classifying massive numbers of California drivers as independent contractors,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
  • Assuming states were allowed to go bankrupt, Crain's Steven Strahler believes an Illinois bankruptcy might not be what anyone actually wants.
  • Illinois' $560m shortfall in gasoline taxes right now has put transit projects at risk.
  • The BBC tries to help the rest of the world understand why the US has a backlash against face masks, as does NBC.
  • If you take New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut out of the equation, the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in the US.
  • Bottled water sales have gone up 57% year-over-year, so Consumer Reports wants to know why people are paying so much for someone else's tap water? Especially since bottlers often don't pay their water bills while residents are getting their water shut off.
  • Anyone remember that it's the 20th anniversary of the ILOVEYOU virus?

And finally, a cute diner in Toronto where I had breakfast last June has moved to delivery service during the lockdown. Too bad they can't deliver to Chicago.

At least the tunnel has walls now, even if we can't see the end of it

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced this afternoon a five-phase, evidence-based plan to reopen the state:

The five phases for each health region are as follows:

Phase 1 – Rapid Spread: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital is high or rapidly increasing. Strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines are put in place and only essential businesses remain open. Every region has experienced this phase once already, and could return to it if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful.

Phase 2 – Flattening: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital beds and ICU beds increases at an ever slower rate, moving toward a flat and even a downward trajectory. Nonessential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing. To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May.

Phase 3 – Recovery: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. Gatherings limited to 10 people or fewer are allowed. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 4 – Revitalization: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, child care and schools reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.

Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until COVID-19 is defeated, this plan also recognizes that just as health metrics will tell us it is safe to move forward, health metrics may also tell us to return to a prior phase. With a vaccine or highly effective treatment not yet available, IDPH will be closely monitoring key metrics to immediately identify trends in cases and hospitalizations to
determine whether a return to a prior phase may become necessary.

We're in Phase 2 right now, state-wide. How do we get to phase 3?

Cases and Capacity: The determination of moving from Phase 2 to Phase 3 will be driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity. This data will be tracked from the time a region enters Phase 2, onwards.

  • At or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND
  • No overall increase (i.e. stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days, AND
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators

Testing: Testing available for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities

Tracing: Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis

In Phase 3 we'll be able to have private gatherings of 10 or fewer people, meaning we can finally, at that point, visit friends who aren't sick. But reading the criteria, we're at least 4 weeks away from phase 3, depending on what happens to overall testing and new case numbers.

We'll get through this. Someday.

Kim Stanley Robinson on our new "structure of feeling"

The science-fiction author sees hope in our response to Covid-19:

People who study climate change talk about “the tragedy of the horizon.” The tragedy is that we don’t care enough about those future people, our descendants, who will have to fix, or just survive on, the planet we’re now wrecking. We like to think that they’ll be richer and smarter than we are and so able to handle their own problems in their own time. But we’re creating problems that they’ll be unable to solve. You can’t fix extinctions, or ocean acidification, or melted permafrost, no matter how rich or smart you are. The fact that these problems will occur in the future lets us take a magical view of them. We go on exacerbating them, thinking—not that we think this, but the notion seems to underlie our thinking—that we will be dead before it gets too serious. The tragedy of the horizon is often something we encounter, without knowing it, when we buy and sell. The market is wrong; the prices are too low. Our way of life has environmental costs that aren’t included in what we pay, and those costs will be borne by our descendents. We are operating a multigenerational Ponzi scheme.

And yet: “Flatten the curve.” We’re now confronting a miniature version of the tragedy of the time horizon. We’ve decided to sacrifice over these months so that, in the future, people won’t suffer as much as they would otherwise. In this case, the time horizon is so short that we are the future people. It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon. Amid the tragedy and death, this is one source of pleasure. Even though our economic system ignores reality, we can act when we have to. At the very least, we are all freaking out together. To my mind, this new sense of solidarity is one of the few reassuring things to have happened in this century. If we can find it in this crisis, to save ourselves, then maybe we can find it in the big crisis, to save our children and theirs.

A structure of feeling is not a free-floating thing. It’s tightly coupled with its corresponding political economy. How we feel is shaped by what we value, and vice versa. Food, water, shelter, clothing, education, health care: maybe now we value these things more, along with the people whose work creates them. To survive the next century, we need to start valuing the planet more, too, since it’s our only home.

It will be hard to make these values durable. Valuing the right things and wanting to keep on valuing them—maybe that’s also part of our new structure of feeling. As is knowing how much work there is to be done. But the spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change. It’s like a bell ringing to start a race. Off we go—into a new time.

Meanwhile, even as the number of people dying of Covid-19 continues to climb, the White House is threatening to shut down the Coronavirus Task Force. But don't call them stupid.

Not all horrible news

Yes, yes, the world has most of the Biblical plagues going on right now, including apparently 40 mm–long hornets, but I can see some bright spots, despite (or because of) all this:

Alas, the rest of the news isn't as benign:

And finally, I mentioned a shooting in my neighborhood last week that hadn't yet made the papers. It took a couple of days, but CWB Chicago now has the story.

A little light reading

Yesterday I started Federico Finchelstein's new book A Brief History of Fascist Lies, and it may have kept me awake longer than I wanted last night. Finchelstein's central thesis is that for fascists, truth was a matter of faith, not of empirical fact, and this truth was made incarnate in the fascist leader:

Fascism defended a divine, messianic, and charismatic form of leadership that conceived of the leader as organically linked to the people and the nation. It considered popular sovereignty to be fully delegated to the dictator, who acted in the name of the community of the people and knew better than they what they truly wanted. Fascists replaced history and empirically based notions of truth with political myth. ... Fascism aimed to create a new and epochal world order through an incremental continuum of extreme political violence and war.

At root, fascists believed fantasy, and disbelieved reality that didn't fit their myths:

In their search for a truth that did not coincide with the experienced world, fascists resorted to making metaphors reality. There was nothing true about ideological falsehoods, but their adherents nonetheless wanted to make these lies real enough. They conceived what they saw and did not like as untruth. [Emphasis in original.] ...

For Mussolini, reality had to follow mythical imperatives. Too bad if people were not initially convinced; their disbelief also needed to be challenged. The mythical framework of fascism was rooted in the fascist myth of the nation.

In other words, arguing facts with a fascist had no effect because facts didn't matter to them. Only their beliefs mattered. A psychologist might call this "malignant narcissism."

I'm only a quarter the way in, but I'll probably finish it tonight. Finchelstein has given me a missing piece in my understanding of the creeping authoritarian nationalism plaguing the world right now. As he says in his introduction, "Populism is fascism adapted to democracy;" however, "populists merely want to diminish the power of representative democracy, whereas fascists wanted to end democracy."

Even the first couple of chapters has given me a lot to think about. I'll write more as I think about it more.

Afternoon news roundup

As Illinois hits 2,662 Covid-19 deaths and the CDC says the country will hit about that number every day by month's end, May the 4th be with us:

So it wasn't all horrible news today.

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, 50 years ago today

On 4 May 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students at Kent State University outside Cleveland:

The sky was cloudless, the spring air warm and still. As the morning wore on, the growing crowd of students, now numbering in the thousands, became feisty, and some taunted the soldiers. Just after noon, a group of guardsmen suddenly huddled together, retreated briefly, wheeled toward the right, turned in tandem and fired at the students for 13 seconds.

The students were not only unarmed; most didn’t realize that the guards’ rifles held live ammunition. Four students were killed: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. Nine others were injured. After 50 years, we still don’t know why the guard turned and fired.

While Kent State was not the only instance of violence against student protesters, it immediately became a byword for state-sanctioned violence. Campuses nationwide erupted in protest. Krause, Miller, Scheuer and Schroeder became martyrs, their deaths memorialized by the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in their song “Ohio.” The tremors were felt all the way to the White House; according to H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, they precipitated the sense of political paranoia within the administration that set Watergate in motion.

The May 4 shootings were viewed very differently by conservatives and liberals; most conservatives endorsed the National Guard’s actions and at best wrote off the shooting as a tragic accident, at worst as the protesters’ just dessert — a position that liberals and the left found unimaginable. “Just as many consider shootings by the police to be ridding the streets of ‘thugs,’ the killings at Kent State were also celebrated by many. ‘National Guard 4, Students 0,’ or ‘They Should have Shot 400’ were commonly voiced views,” Professor Grace wrote, finding a vicious split that is echoed today over everything from climate change to the Kavanaugh hearings.

We also need to recognize the way that Kent State is viewed through race. The students shot on May 4, all white, became martyrs; most people have forgotten that less than two weeks later, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two students in Mississippi, were killed by police officers in the wake of a false rumor about the death of a civil rights leader. And while Kent State stands out as an exception — National Guardsmen killing white college students — over the years, state authorities have killed far more African-American protesters than whites.

The Guardian says the shootings "marked the start of America's polarization."

We're finally on our own.

I will travel from state to state in a recreational vehicle

Poor Commander Borodin, the executive officer on the Red October, who never got to live his dream:

Only it turns out, during a pandemic, it's not such a dream:

“Most R.V.s are not set up to be disconnected from utilities for extended periods of time, so as a result, when a shelter-in-place order is issued, it creates a nationwide game of musical chairs for people trying to find a spot to hunker down in,” said Shawn Loring, chief executive of the Escapees RV Club, one of the country’s oldest and largest groups for R.V.ers.

While people can set up on “dispersed” public land — open grounds without utilities — most are still in need of R.V. parks that offer connections for power, water, septic tanks and Wi-Fi, among other services. Leigh Wetzel, co-founder of Campendium, an online resource with 27,600 campsites in its database, said that as of March 20, 9 percent of those sites were closed. A month later it was 46 percent.

Some R.V. advocates have been lobbying to get these parks recognized as essential services. “Local governments don’t understand, only a very small percentage of R.V.s are equipped for off-the-grid living,” said Curtis Coleman, chief executive of RVillage, an online community with about 216,000 members. “They think campgrounds are gathering places and are not thinking they provide an essential service for the full-time R.V.ers who are now displaced.”

Imagine being in a 18 m² room with someone for weeks, and nowhere to go, because you can't get (or unload) water. One shudders.

Cari Lightner died 40 years ago today

Clarence Busch, a man with multiple arrests for intoxication including a hit-and-run drunk-driving charge from less than a week earlier, killed 13-year-old Cari Lightner on a quiet road in Fair Oaks, California, on 3 May 1980. In response, Cari's mother Candace founded MADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which in just four years got the Federal Government and most of the states to crack down on drunk driving. The organization and the legislation they got passed reduced drunk-driving deaths 40% by 2000.

My dad met Candy Lightner in 1982, and wrote an Emmy-nominated TV movie about her and her success in saving other people from drunk drivers, for which he received a Writers Guild award in 1984. (He would have won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Special as well but for the truly groundbreaking Special Bulletin.)

You can watch the trailer for MADD on Video Detective, and the entire movie Special Bulletin on YouTube.

Pothole art

A couple of blocks from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, artist Jim Bachor has made mosaic art in potholes. He added two new installations in the last couple of weeks:

The mosaics depict a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of Purell and a can of Old Style, each depicted with halos. Such items have been in limited supply as Americans stocked up amid the pandemic or — as in the case of the beer can — because they’re a product people have relied on for solace during this unprecedented time.

“People are adoring these things, and everyone is drinking more these days,” Bachor said. “It’s a universal thing that everyone can relate to.”

The fourth mosaic depicts a star from the Chicago flag, meant to generate civic pride, Bachor said.

The pothole art project began in 2013, starting in Chicago and expanding to 85 mini-mosaics in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Italy and the Netherlands. Potholes are universal in nature in that they happen in all locations and are despised by drivers everywhere. Bachor likes to fill potholes with images of other universally recognized items, including Cheetos bags and crushed beer cans.

Why he chose that particular block I do not know. Here's my own photo of one: