Just when you thought the Republican Party couldn't become more anti-science and pro-profit (at the expense of workers), the Wisconsin Supreme Court just struck down Wisconsin's stay-at-home order on a 4-3 party-line vote.
If only that were all:
- Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's abject hypocrisy shows us where he's failed."
- Not only has Trump "lost the plot," he "has no plan," according to two articles this week in The Atlantic. How is this news cycle different from all other news cycles?
- The US Supreme Court listened to arguments this week about the electoral college and Trump's tax returns. It seems likely the nation will lose both cases.
- The judge presiding over Michael Flynn's case has asked a retired judge to brief him on whether to hold Flynn in criminal contempt for perjury, after the Justice Dept. sought to end its prosecution of Flynn.
- The City of Chicago has ordered food delivery services to disclose the fees they charge restaurants so consumers have more transparency. Restaurants have complained about price-gouging from GrubHub and others.
- Meanwhile, Uber is in talks to buy GrubHub. If we had a functioning FTC, this would never happen.
- David Kamp brings back my childhood with his paean to Zoom, the children's television show I watched religiously when I was a kid.
- Anthropologists have found a 45,000-year-old midden containing homo sapiens tools, bones, and jewelry in a cave in Bulgaria. It's evidence of the earliest modern humans in Europe.
- The New York Times has an oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road, which the author calls a "modern action classic." (It's one of my faves as well.)
Someday, we'll all look back on this time, laugh nervously, and change the subject.
I read the news today, oh boy:
Finally, the USS Nevada, a battleship that survived World War I and Pearl Harbor until the Navy scuttled her in 1948, has been found.
The US unemployment rate exploded to 14.7% in April as 20.5 million people officially left the workforce, with millions more people leaving full-time work and others not even trying to find new jobs. April's job losses were more than 10 times the 1.9 million reported in September 1945 as the US demobilized from World War II.
Once you've absorbed that, there's more:
Finally, today is the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, when the Nazi army finally surrendered to the Allies, ending the war in Europe. Germans celebrated the event today as a day of liberation from the Nazis.
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:
- White House economist Kevin Hassett, who has not made an accurate prediction in his entire career as far as anyone can see, projects zero Covid-19 deaths by next week. The CDC, which has a bit more reputation and a bit more experience in health care, projects 3,000 deaths per day—an entire 9/11 every day—by mid-June.
- Norwegian Cruise Line's latest SEC filing says it will probably sink into bankruptcy in the next few weeks. So if you want to buy a cruise ship at rock-bottom prices, now's your chance.
- The Lincoln Project, a never-Trump Republican organization whose members include George Conway, put out an attack ad so devastating it reduced the president to incoherent Tweeting. Of course, that's less a reduction than a normal Sunday morning, but still.
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.
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.
Congratulations! You've made it to the end of April. This month has felt like one of the longest years of my life, and probably yours.
So as we head into May, here's what the last few hours of April have wrought:
Well, the only cops I've seen out in force recently were the guys who responded to a shooting and captured the two suspects a block from my home. (Yeah, that happened, and it didn't even make the paper.)
Welcome to day 31 of the Illinois shelter-in-place regime, which also turns out to be day 36 of my own working-from-home regime (or day 43 if you ignore that I had to go into the office on March 16th). So what's new?
Finally, via Bruce Schneier, the Dutch intelligence service had an unintentional back door into several other countries' communications. (Scheier says, "It seems to be clever cryptanalysis rather than a backdoor.")
Demand for petroleum has crashed so hard and so fast that North American oil producers have run out of space to store the excess. This morning the price of US crude collapsed, falling 105 500% to $-2 $-37.63 per barrel; Canadian oil prices also dropped negative. That's right, if you want to take a million or so barrels off their hands, they'll pay you to do so. (This only affects delivery by month's end; for delivery in May, oil still costs $20 a barrel.)
Meanwhile, in other horrific news:
Finally, the Covid-19 emergency has led to mass layoffs of architects, one of the hardest-hit professions in any recession. I'm currently reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, his biography of Robert Moses, and just at the point where he mentions that in 1934, 5 out of 6 architects had lost their jobs. Everything old is new again.
At some point, we will probably settle on the red planet. In a fascinating article from 2018, The Atlantic wondered how we'll police it:
Consider the basic science of crime-scene analysis. In the dry, freezer-like air and extreme solar exposure of Mars, DNA will age differently than it does on Earth. Blood from blunt-trauma and stab wounds will produce dramatically new spatter patterns in the planet’s low gravity. Electrostatic charge will give a new kind of evidentiary value to dust found clinging to the exteriors of space suits and nearby surfaces. Even radiocarbon dating will be different on Mars, [UC-Davis archaeologist Christyann] Darwent reminded me, due to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry, making it difficult to date older crime scenes.
The Martian environment itself is also already so lethal that even a violent murder could be disguised as a natural act. Darwent suggested that a would-be murderer on the Red Planet could use the environment’s ambient lethality to her advantage. A fatal poisoning could be staged to seem as if the victim simply died of exposure to abrasive chemicals, known as perchlorates, in the Martian rocks. A weak seal on a space suit, or an oxygen meter that appears to have failed but was actually tampered with, could really be a clever homicide hiding in plain sight.
Imagine a criminal armed with a knife has been cornered on a Martian research base, near a critical airlock leading outside. If police fire a gun or even a Taser, they risk damaging key components of the base itself, endangering potentially thousands of innocent bystanders. Other forms of hand-to-hand combat learned on Earth might have adverse effects; even a simple punch could send both the criminal and the cop flying apart as they collide in the reduced Martian gravity. How can police overpower the fugitive without making things worse for everyone?
And then there's the surveillance....
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.