Just a couple passing stories this afternoon:
Finally, Merck and Johnson & Johnson announced a plan to combine production of Covid-19 vaccines, an "unprecedented" collaboration between competitors.
I read the news today, oh boy. And one of the stories reminded me of this movie:
See if you can guess which one.
- The FBI charged Richard Michetti, of Ridley Park, Pa., with several crimes related to the January 6 insurrection after his ex-girlfriend turned over photos, videos, and texts of Michetti storming the Capitol. She did so shortly after he called her a "moron" in one of the texts.
- The North Atlantic Overturning Circulation has declined to its lowest point in over a millennium, threatening to make Northern Europe's weather more like Canada's and to raise sea levels along the US Atlantic coast. Note that global warming slowing the ocean's thermohaline circulation was predicted back in the 1980s.
- Following Monday's unsigned order from the United States Supreme Court, Mazars USA, the XPOTUS's accounting firm, has turned over 8 years of Trump Organization tax records to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
- Dominion Voting Systems' legal filings against Rudy Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell spared no one's feelings.
- The New Yorker's Eric Lach puzzles over "the sound and fury of Andrew Cuomo."
- If you're a mom at wit's end trying to manage children during the pandemic, Jennifer Senior wants you to know you're not alone.
Finally, Chicago managed 58 hours of above-freezing temperatures (from 1pm Monday until 11pm yesterday) leaving us with only 15 cm of snow on the ground and a chance it'll all be gone by this time tomorrow. The forecast calls for daytime highs above freezing every day through next week, possibly hitting 10°C over the weekend. Spring!
Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:
Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.
Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.
Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.
In other news:
Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:
The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.
More odd things of note:
Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.
I'm looking out my office window at the light dusting of snow on my neighbors' cars, wondering how (or whether) I'll get my 10,000 steps today. My commute to work got me 3,000 each way, making the job tons easier before lockdown. Easier psychologically, anyway; nothing prevents me from going for a 45-minute walk except that I really don't want to.
Instead of a lunchtime hike, I'll probably just read these articles:
And just as a side note for posterity, we should remember that the President of Russia congratulated Joe Biden on his win before the Majority Leader of the US Senate did. The Republican Party must really not like democracy.
Happy Hanukkah! Now read these:
I will now have some very yummy Szechuan leftovers.
My company gives us the usual American holidays off, and adds two "floating holidays" you can take whenever you want. I took my first one in January and just remembered last week that I hadn't taken the second one. So I took it today. Which gave me some time to read a bunch of things:
Finally, the list I posted Wednesday needs an update. In October 1918, influenza killed 195,000 Americans, or an average of 6,290 per day. So clearly most of that month set records well above the records we set this week.
Josh Marshall points out that talking about "reopening," before we have a cure or vaccine for Covid-19, is facile at best and dangerous at worst:
From the start this metaphor has saddled us with distorting language and a distorted concept which has enabled and driven bad policy. It suggests a binary choice when one doesn’t exist. The impact goes beyond semantics.
Most of Europe and East Asia have been able to stamp out COVID or reduce it to very low, manageable levels. We haven’t. You may have heard about that new outbreak in Beijing. By the time an aggressive eradication plan had stamped it out approximately 250 people had been infected. New York State has two or three times that many cases today and it’s doing better than any other state in the country.
There’s no reason beyond conscious choice and policy failure to explain this. Testing is critical. Absolutely critical. But the truth is that the scale of testing continues to rise in the US and it is currently at or above levels in most of these other countries which are now emerging into a new normal of economic and social life. But testing is to a large degree like an instrument panel on a plane. It tells you where you’re going. Up? Down? Fast? Slow? Are you flying into a mountain? In most of the states which let down their guard and allowed indoor dining and bars to reopen the testing sent really clear signals. The tests are there to tell you what’s coming so you can react. In many of these states the testing data said, “You’re flying into the mountain.” They kept flying straight. You can’t blame that on the testing.
We’ve learned a lot we didn’t know four months ago. At least for Europe and North America masking is perhaps the biggest example. Almost as critical is the importance of indoor transmission. Indoors, close quarters, poor ventilation or air conditioning, lots of loud talking. These all make for COVID free fire zones. They are close to the definition of bars and night clubs. Reopening them before COVID is beaten down to negligible levels is madness. And even then it’s probably a bad idea.
There’s no “reopening”. There are different mitigation strategies and there’s how seriously you take the whole enterprise.
Even Illinois, which had seen consistent declines in infection and positive test rates has now leveled off again. I think this meme sums it up pretty well:
Vox has called the US Senate Democratic Party primary in Kentucky for Amy McGrath, but the main national outlets don't have it yet. [Note: I have contributed financially to Amy McGrath's campaign.] So while I wait for confirmation from the Washington Post (or, you know, the Kentucky State Board of Elections), here's other fun stuff:
- As threatened, the European Union has barred travelers from the United States from entering, because of our shit response to Covid-19.
- The shit response includes record numbers of deaths in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, even as Illinois recorded the fewest deaths since April yesterday.
- The shit response may have something to do with an intelligence failure at the highest levels of government, as Carl Bernstein documents yet another day of White House officials "expressing concern" (but still collaborating).
- The shit response moved David Frum to state the obvious: "This is Trump's Plague Now."
- McSweeney's has cataloged 759 instances (so far) of "Trump's Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions, and Crimes."
- Facebook plans to build an $800 million data center in DeKalb, about 90 km west of Chicago.
Finally, Jeffrey Toobin attempts to explain "Why the Mueller Investigation Failed."
Update: NBC calls Kentucky for McGrath.