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.
A 10-hectare section of Alta, Norway, slipped into the sea on Wednesday, destroying 8 vacation homes and temporarily inconveniencing a dog:
The landslide, which ran 2,133 feet along the shore and went nearly 500 feet inland, was the largest the area has ever seen, according to Anders Bjordal, a Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate senior engineer who was involved in the rescue operation.
“In this municipality, a landslide has not happened in 50 or 60 years, and there has never been one this size,” Mr. Bjordal said on Friday.
Jan Egil Bakkeby, who owned one of the cabins, scrambled out of the building when he heard the landslide begin. “I had just made two slices of bread when I heard it crack in the cabin,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Altaposten. “At first I thought there was someone in the loft, but then I saw out of the window that the power cord was smoking.”
As he moved to higher ground, he filmed the scene as a swath of land under his and others’ properties inched into the water and was soon submerged.
Only one rescue took place: A dog was swept away when the land began to slip, and the animal was carried out to sea, officials said. The dog was able to swim ashore and was rescued by a helicopter that was checking the area for missing people.
The video is surreal:
I rode the El yesterday for the first time since March 15th, because I had to take my car in for service. (It's 100% fine.) This divided up my day so I had to scramble in the afternoon to finish a work task, while all these news stories piled up:
Finally, author and Ohio resident John Scalzi sums up why he won't rush back to restaurants when they reopen in his state next week:
My plan is to stay home for most of June and let other people run around and see how that works out for them. The best-case scenario is that I’m being overly paranoid for an extra month, in which case we can all laugh about it afterward. The worst case scenario, of course, is death and pain and a lot of people with confused about why ventilator tubes are stuck down their throats, or the throats of their loved ones, when they were assured this was all a liberal hoax, and then all of us back in our houses until September. Once again, I would be delighted to be proved overly paranoid.
I have sympathy for the people who are all, the hell with this, I’ll risk getting sick, just let me out of my fucking apartment. I get where you’re coming from. You probably don’t actually know what you’re asking for. I hope that you never have to learn.
Note to Mr Scalzi: I hope to start The Last Emperox this week. I really do.