The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Psycopathic response to state violence

Not content to give psychologists circumstantial evidence of psycopathy, the president became even more unhinged and reactive this weekend. Since he has no capacity for empathy or even, it seems, metacognition of any sort, one could have (and did) predict much of this. To begin, in a conversation with state governors today, he advocated increased state-sanctioned violence to counter peaceful protests against state-sanctioned violence:

As the country reels from nearly a week of intense protests marked by countless acts of police brutality, President Donald Trump on Monday pressured governors to deploy more aggressive and violent tactics against protesters, telling them they would look like “jerks” if they didn’t get tougher. He also threatened to unleash the powers of the Justice Department in order to empower law enforcement officials to “fight back” against demonstrators.

“You have to dominate,” Trump said on a private call with governors, according to reporting by multiple news outlets that obtained a recording of the explosive conversation. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you. You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”

“You’ve got to arrest people,” he continued. “You have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years, and you’ll never see this stuff again.”

Fun fact: he (and bestie Vladimir Putin, almost forgot) wins when the country is divided against itself. And to him, nothing else matters except winning—even if he only wins the moment and loses the war.

While cowering in the White House basement, the president contemplated invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy active-duty troops to American cities. The last time this happened, California governor Pete Wilson requested President George HW Bush send troops to Los Angeles in 1992 to help quell the Rodney King protests. But I think most people can see the problem of putting armed regulars on American streets against the express wishes of state governors, if for no other reason than we last did that in 1877. And in that case, the army went in to protect civil rights, not prevent them.

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Unfortunately, all of this means that the president, being scared out of his tiny mind, will show even more psychopathic behavior, because that's all he knows how to do. Even on his best days he couldn't reason himself out of a losing game of Tic-Tac-Toe. These are his worst days, and they're getting worse for him.

On the left, we have to bang the drum from now until November 3rd that the president, not the protesters, is making America less American. Quoting Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer: “The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction. We must reject this way of thinking.”

Welcome to Summer!

Yes, June 1st, the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere (according to climatologists, anyway), and Chicago has never seemed more exciting. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced last week that we would move into Phase 3 of the Covid-19 recovery plan on Wednesday, but then the weekend happened:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’s worried protests throughout the city this weekend could have been “super-spreading” events for the coronavirus.

The vast majority of people in Chicago’s protests wore masks, and some organizers set up their marches to allow social distancing. But there were crowds that gathered and marched throughout the city — and officials have warned for months large groups of people pose a serious risk of spreading COVID-19.

“This disease is still ravaging our Black and Brown communities, and our public health officials are gravely concerned that yesterday’s action could turn out to be a super spreader event,” Lightfoot said during a Sunday press conference.

No doubt some people spread the virus while they looted and burned businesses city-wide:

Throughout the night, police received call after call of lootings, shootings and fires on all sides of the city. There were several “10-1″ calls for officers in immediate need of help. It capped a weekend that was one of the most violent in recent years in Chicago, with more than 80 people shot, nearly 20 of them killed.

Police Superintendent David Brown said there were 699 looting arrests, mostly on the South and West sides. At least 132 officers were injured on Sunday and there were 48 shootings, with 17 deaths, he said. Chicago officials said they received 65,000 calls in a 24-hour period, 50,000 more than typical day.

The Tribune has a full timeline of the weekend's events.

In Washington, protesters sent the president scurrying into an underground bunker as the White House lights were turned off for the first time in decades. Around the world, groups showed solidarity with American protesters leading to hundreds of arrests in London and other cities.

I'm going to leave you with this 18-minute post from Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central's "Daily Show." He says a lot that we should all hear:

Shutting down

In 45 minutes, the entire CTA system will shut down to make it harder for wandering bands of hordes (my mom's expression) from continuing to cause havoc:

Starting at 6:30 p.m., CTA will suspend service on all CTA bus routes and rail lines at the request of public safety officials. Service is expected to resume tomorrow morning. CTA will provide service updates via transitchicago.com.

Earlier, the mayor and county officials claimed they had good evidence that much of the criminal behavior last night came from organized groups taking advantage of the protests:

Speaking at a Sunday afternoon press conference with other officials, Lightfoot didn’t say whether the groups are out-of-state left-wing anti-fascist organizations generally known as Antifa, right-wing agitators, local street gangs or something else. She said she’s asked three federal agencies—the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s office—for help, with a focus on AFT’s bomb and arson unit.

“There is no doubt. This was an organized effort last night,” she said. “There were clearly efforts to subvert the peaceful process and make it into something violent.”

“There’s no question that both the people who were fighting and brought the weapons that was absolutely organized and choreographed,” she added. “It seems also clear that the fires that were set both of the vehicles and buildings that that was organized and that was opportunistic, as well as the looting.”

There were similar reports from other cities; the mayor of St Paul at one point claimed that all of the arrests in his city were of people from out of state; he later walked back the claim.

More distressing to me are reports that police in some places have targeted journalists. With weather getting warmer, and the coronavirus still keeping people cooped up inside, I believe (as does James Fallows) that this year could turn out worse than 1968.

Chicago in 2020 is not Berlin in 1924

A peaceful protest in downtown Chicago that began at 2pm yesterday devolved into violence by 8pm, leading to Mayor Lori Lightfoot imposing a 9pm to 6am curfew city-wide:

“I want to express my disappointment and, really, my total disgust at the number of others who came to today’s protests armed for all-out battle.”

Lightfoot singled out “the people who came armed with weapons,’’ calling them “criminals.“

“We can have zero tolerance for people who came prepared for a fight and tried to initiate and provoke our police department.’’

She ruled out calling in the National Guard.

The city lifted bridges and blocked access to downtown, shutting Metra and downtown CTA stations around 8:30. I live about 10 km away from the protests, but I have friends and family in the Loop and South Loop. One sent this photo of police blocking the Congress Parkway:

(Movie fans may recognize the section of grass along the river, top-center in the photo, as the location of the Abegnation housing complex in the movie Divergent.)

Looters smashed windows at Macy's on State Street and Nieman-Marcus on Michigan Avenue. In the South Loop, a friend reported on Facebook:

Will have to see in the daylight but I'm hearing the entire South loop is destroyed. Every business windows smashed and looted broken glass everywhere. From Ida B Wells down to Cermak from Michigan down to Canal. Can verify all the stores on my block are destroyed.

The local CBS affiliate had this:

So, it's scary—but in many ways, it looks a lot better than it would have looked in the 1960s or 1920s. This isn't societal collapse. The Chicago Police remained professional and disciplined throughout. (Other police departments in the US, maybe not so much.) They know what's at stake, and they also know that the "protesters" instigating the violence and attacking them are trying to provoke a disproportionate response.

One of my friends summed up the complexity:

It is entirely possible to support the protesters and stand with them and to be angry and devastated by the murder of George Floyd and by every other similar murder as well as the systemic racism that allows it, and also to be angry and sad about the destruction and looting. Vandalism and looting may be what Dr. King called derivative crimes. Uncontested and deplorable derivative crimes. The people doing these things are criminals.

Yet it is also possible to have anger at the people destroying and looting and also have empathy and compassion for the people doing the destroying and looting and understanding the underlying root causes of their actions.

George Takei Tweeted:

He also pointed out that the Hong Kong protests worked in part because peaceful protesters called out and filmed the agitators infiltrating their events. We should do the same.

Then there's The Onion from 2017. I'll just leave it there.

Continued ethnic unrest in former British colony

The Washington Post's Karen Attiah imagines how an American newspaper would cover the protests in Minnesota if it used the same tropes as typically found in Western articles on politics elsewhere:

The country has been rocked by several viral videos depicting extrajudicial executions of black ethnic minorities by state security forces. Uprisings erupted in the northern city of Minneapolis after a video circulated online of the killing of a black man, George Floyd, after being attacked by a security force agent. Trump took to Twitter, calling black protesters “THUGS”’ and threatening to send in military force. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts!” he declared.

Ethnic violence has plagued the country for generations, and decades ago it captured the attention of the world, but recently the news coverage and concern are waning as there seems to be no end in sight to the oppression.

Around the world, grass-roots organizations, celebrities, human rights activists and even students are doing what they can to raise money and awareness about the dire situation in America.

“It’s sad that the Americans don’t have a government that can get them coronavirus tests or even monthly checks to be able to feed their families,” said Charlotte Johnson, a 18-year-old Liberian student activist, who survived the Ebola pandemic. “100,000 people are dead, cities are burning, and the country hasn’t had a day of mourning? Lives don’t matter, especially not black lives. It’s like they’re living in a failing state.”

Meanwhile, opinion writers have ratcheted up the rhetoric as violence continues around the country.

Shared streets in Chicago

The city has started adding traffic controls to side streets in an effort to encourage outdoor recreation and social distancing:

Earlier this week, officials said at least six streets are expected to be closed to through traffic and opened to the public. The move comes after weeks of transportation advocates asking the city to open up streets to pedestrians, giving them more room to walk, jog and ride bikes so they can safely social distance while outside during the pandemic.

Advocates have long called for streets to be opened to pedestrians during the pandemic. With the lakefront and popular trails like The 606 closed to prevent overcrowding, people have said they need more room to get outside without having to worry about crowds or packed sidewalks.

Other major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, created open streets weeks ago.

One of the streets announced as the first to switch runs right past my block. Unfortunately for my side of the neighborhood, our alderman threw cold water on the city's announcement in an email to constituents he sent last night:

Unfortunately, a web blog errantly [sic] and preemptively posted this information before the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) had finalized their plans.  The portion of Leland in the 46th Ward, from Clark to Sheridan, was never going to be a part of this plan because Leland already has, or will have, significant construction taking place this summer. So, according to CDOT, this portion of Leland is unsafe for promoting a shared streets concept.

For reference, these projects include: MCI utility installation, resurfacing of the 1200 block of Leland and the 4700 block of Malden, water main installation on Racine that will cross Leland, and the ongoing building construction at Sheridan and Leland for the new Sarah's Circle facility. It is because of all of these conflicts that CDOT is not supporting Leland as a shared street at this time.

Safe open space is critically important for everybody's mental and physical health during these Stay at Home orders, and that is why we continue to advocate for the Lakefront trails to reopen. This is a plea my office hears daily from residents, and I agree that the trails should open in a phased and planned way to provide safe, and equitable social distancing for recreation and transportation throughout the city.

In other words, yes, Leland will become a shared street—right up to the border of my ward and not actually in my ward. Nice to hear he's lobbying the mayor to reopen the lakefront, though Monty and Rose might want to keep it closed.

Also yesterday, the mayor announced that the city will close a few streets to traffic to encourage restaurants to expand outdoor dining. The Tribune said, however, "it was unclear when the program would start."

Minneapolis police "inadvertently" arrest reporter live on air

As CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew asked riot police where they would like them to move early this morning, the police abruptly arrested the group:

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz spoke with CNN president Jeffrey Zucker shortly after:

Mr. Walz told Mr. Zucker that the arrest was “inadvertent” and “unacceptable,” according to CNN’s account of the call. By about 6:30 a.m. local time, the crew had been released and was back on television.

“Everyone, to their credit, was pretty cordial,” Mr. Jimenez said of his interaction with the police officers after his arrest. “As far as the people that were leading me away, there was no animosity there. They weren’t violent with me. We were having a conversation about just how crazy this week has been for every single part of the city.”

At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Walz issued what he called “a very public apology” to CNN for the morning’s events, saying, “I take full responsibility; there is absolutely no reason something like this should happen.”

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, wrote on Twitter that “arresting journalists is the kind of thing that happens in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. We live in a democracy.” Bret Baier of Fox News wrote that “this should never have happened. Period.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., weighed in on the incident in a Twitter post on Friday. “This is not abstract: a black reporter was arrested while doing his job this morning, while the white police officer who killed George Floyd remains free,” Mr. Biden wrote. “I am glad swift action was taken, but this, to me, says everything.”

Exactly. I expect that someone in the Minnesota State Patrol will get fired over this, but probably not the person who ordered the arrest. I find it shocking that this happened in Minneapolis, one of the most progressive cities in the country.

But police killings have not declined despite years of attempted reforms. As Radley Balko wrote today, "White people can compartmentalize police brutality. Black people don't have the luxury."

Planting seeds to dispute the election

President Trump today signed an executive order that will likely have no legal effect and could very well backfire on him, directing the Federal Communications Commission to revisit Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act:

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, online companies have broad immunity from liability for content created by their users.

But the draft of the executive order, which refers to what it calls “selective censoring,” would allow the Commerce Department to try to refocus how broadly Section 230 is applied, and to let the Federal Trade Commission bulk up a tool for reporting online bias.

It would also provide limitations on how federal dollars can be spent to advertise on social media platforms.

Although the law does not provide social media companies blanket protection — for instance, the companies must still comply with copyright law and remove pirated materials posted by users — it does shield them from some responsibility for their users’ posts.

This apparently comes in response to Twitter having the temerity to label one of his lies as such, but not really. The president more likely sees this as another way to whip up his base of the illegitimacy of November's election, which (a) is only 159 days away and (b) looking more like a Biden win. Keep in mind the specific lie that Twitter called out concerned mail-in ballots. We can expect more attacks on the people actually trying to keep the election free and fair as we get closer.

Because 2020 couldn't get any more fun, right?

Predicting the future based on history

This morning, the Labor Department reported 2.1 million new unemployment claims, bringing the total to almost 41 million since the pandemic hit the US. As horrifying as that number is, I actually wanted to highlight two articles that appeared today.

The first, by Trump biographer Tony Schwartz in Medium, warns us that having a psychopathic president makes November's election "a true Armageddon:"

The trait that most distinguishes psychopaths is the utter absence of conscience — the capacity to lie, cheat, steal and inflict pain to achieve his ends without a scintilla of guilt or shame, as Trump so demonstrably does. What Trump’s words and behavior make clear is that he feels no more guilt about hurting others than a lion does about killing a giraffe.

What makes Trump’s behavior challenging to fathom is that our minds are not wired to understand human beings who live far outside the norms, rules, laws and values that the vast majority of us take for granted. Conscience, empathy and concern for the welfare of others are all essential to the social contract. Conscience itself reflects an inner sense of obligation to behave with honesty, fairness, and care for others, along with a willingness to express contrition if we fall short of those ideals, and especially when we harm others.

So what does all this tell us about how we can expect Trump to behave going forward? The simple answer is worse. His obsession with domination and power have prompted Trump to tell lies more promiscuously than ever since he became president, and to engage in ever more unfounded and aggressive responses aimed at anyone he perceives stands in his way.

In the end, Trump does what he does because he is who he is, immutably.

Trump revels in attention, domination and cruelty. “The sociopath wants to manipulate and control you,” explains Martha Stout, “and so you are rewarding and encouraging him each and every time you allow him to see your anger, confusion or your hurt.” Even so, in order to protect our democracy and our shared humanity, it’s critical to push back, calmly and persistently, against every single lie Trump tells, and every legal and moral boundary he violates. We must resist what Hanna Arendt has called “the banality of evil” — the numbness and normalizing that so easily sets in when unconscionable acts become commonplace. “Under conditions of terror, most people will comply,” Arendt has written, “but some people will not.”

Understanding what we’re truly up against — the reign of terror that Trump will almost surely wage the moment he believes he can completely prevail — makes the upcoming presidential election a true Armageddon.

The second, from Jeremy Peters at the New York Times, reviews a 1991 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe that predicted the "Crisis of 2020:"

Their conclusions about the way each generation develops its own characteristics and leadership qualities influenced a wide range of political leaders, from liberals like Bill Clinton and Al Gore to pro-Trump conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Stephen K. Bannon.

Seems as if they were on to something. So now what?

More insightful than the date itself was the assertion that historical patterns pointed toward the arrival of a generation-defining crisis that would force millennials into the fire early in their adulthood. (Mr. Strauss and Mr. Howe were the first to apply that term to those born in the early 1980s because they would come of age around the year 2000.)

More than just a novelty, their theory helps explain why some of the most prominent voices calling for political reform from left, center and right have been young — Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 30; Pete Buttigieg, 38; Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, 40.

And as baby boomers continue to age out of public service, the theory says, fixing the problems created by the pandemic will fall to this younger, civically oriented generation. Mr. Howe, who at 68 is a member of the cohort he is critical of, said in an interview that it was no coincidence that the boomer president and many people in his generation — especially the more conservative ones — have generally taken a more lax attitude toward the coronavirus than younger people.

But now, I have to debug an Azure function app...

The grim reaper's league table

We hit a new milestone today. So, to put things in perspective, here are the number of Americans who have died from:

  • European genocide of Native Americans (1492-1900), ~25 million over 500 years
  • Motor vehicle accidents (1899-2018), 3.8 million over 119 years
  • Firearms (intentional or accidental, 1968-2018), ~1.4 million over 50 years
  • Civil War (1861-1865), 755,000 over 48 months
  • Influenza pandemic (1918-1919), 675,000 over 15 months
  • World War II (1941-1945), 418,500 over 45 months
  • World War I (1917-1918), 116,516 over 20 months
  • Covid-19 (2020), 100,000 over 4 months
  • Vietnam War (1955-1975), 58,209 over 20 years
  • Galveston, Texas, hurricane (1900), ~12,000 over 3 days
  • 9/11 (2001), 2,996 in one day

I don't have time to do the math, but I believe Covid-19 comes second on the list in deaths per day after the 1918 pandemic. Imagine if we'd actually started fighting it earlier.