The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Holiday weekend

Tomorrow a good portion of the United States will celebrate our independence from the UK. NPR this morning reminded me about the portion of the US that Frederick Douglass described in his speech to the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y., on 5 July 1852.

I think everyone should take 15 minutes and listen to it. Or read it, in full here. Or watch James Earl Jones read part of it here:

Today's lunchtime reading

As I take a minute from banging away on C# code to savor my BBQ pork on rice from the local Chinese takeout, I have these to read:

And today's fortune cookie says: "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst in bed."

Happy Monday!

Need another reason to vote for Biden? Slower news cycles. Because just this morning we've had these:

So, you know, nothing too interesting.

In the real world, these would both be career-ending gaffes

This morning, President Trump re-Tweeted a racist video that included a supporter yelling "white power," thanking the elderly Florida gentleman in question for his support. Even though that would end most other presidencies right there, it turns out that this weekend has seen even worse behavior throughout his administration:

Five months after the novel coronavirus was first detected in the United States, a record surge in new cases is the clearest sign yet of the country’s historic failure to control the virus — exposing a crisis in governance extending from the Oval Office to state capitals to city councils.

President Trump — who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, sidelined experts and misled Americans about its dangers and potential cures — now finds his presidency wracked by an inability to shepherd the country through its worst public health calamity in a century. The dysfunction that has long characterized Trump’s White House has been particularly ill-suited for a viral outbreak that requires precision, focus and steady leadership, according to public health experts, administration officials and lawmakers from both parties.

A similarly garbled message for the country has also been put forward by the president’s top aides and other senior administration officials, who contradict one another on a daily basis. On Friday, Vice President Pence used the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in almost two months to praise Trump’s handling of the virus and cast aside concerns about a record spike in new infections.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” Pence said, a few minutes after announcing that more than 2.5 million Americans had contracted the coronavirus. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again.”

Later Friday, the United States recorded more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases — its largest one-day total.

As one political scientist observed, "We're the only country in the world that has politicized the approach to a pandemic."

We need to get rid of these clowns on November 3rd.

Princeton drops the Wilson name

Princeton University has removed the name of their 13th president (and the 28th President of the United States) from their School of Public Policy:

Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time. He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice.  He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today.

Wilson’s segregationist policies make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school. When a university names a school of public policy for a political leader, it inevitably suggests that the honoree is a model for students who study at the school. This searing moment in American history has made clear that Wilson’s racism disqualifies him from that role. In a nation that continues to struggle with racism, this University and its school of public and international affairs must stand clearly and firmly for equality and justice. The School will now be known as “The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.”

Wilson is a different figure from, say, John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, whose fame derives from their defenses of the Confederacy and slavery (Lee was often honored for the very purpose of expressing sympathy for segregation and opposition to racial equality). Princeton honored Wilson not because of, but without regard to or perhaps even in ignorance of, his racism.

That, however, is ultimately the problem. Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored, or excused racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against Black people. When Derek Chauvin knelt for nearly nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck while bystanders recorded his cruelty, he might have assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct, as it had done in response to past complaints against him.

Josh Marshall thinks this was the correct decision:

Wilson was also a thoroughgoing Southerner and Lost Cause defender. Indeed, his scholarship as a history professor – mostly notably in Division and Reunion – played an important role in building a historiography that portrayed slavery as a generally benign institution and Reconstruction as a tragic failure that oppressed the white South with corruption and tyranny. Wilson was a thoroughgoing racist even by the standards of his own day. His attitude toward African-Americans and their political rights don’t just look bad from the perspective of the day. They were widely considered retrograde even in his own day.

This was a through-line throughout Wilson’s career, first as a scholar, a university president, governor and finally President. When he became President he segregated the federal workforce which had been integrated since Reconstruction. Indeed, it’s not too much to say that on becoming President Wilson began a thoroughgoing program of bringing Jim Crow to the federal workplace. The Post Office and Treasury set up separate bathrooms and lunch rooms for black and white employees. He even went so far as to institute a policy of requiring federal office-seekers to append photographs to their applications.

Wilson was the second Democrat and the first Southerner to become President after the Civil War. He brought thoroughly Southern white attitudes toward Blacks to the federal government and worked quickly to put them into effect.

Good on Princeton, though perhaps 50 years too late. I'm glad for the changes finally coming to the US. I'm just astounded that it has taken over 150 400 years.

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.

Watchmen in real life

On Sunday HBO broadcast the season (and possibly series) finale of Watchmen, which I thought one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. New York Times media critic James Poniewozik agrees:

It’s hard to overstate how risky, how primed for disaster, was the challenge that the creator, Damon Lindelof, signed up for. First, to adapt a notoriously hard-to-adapt subversive superhero comic. Then to lovingly, impishly subvert that subversion, extending the story backward and forwards in time. To do all that while reframing the story as an antiracist pulp thriller, weighty without being pompous or exploitative. Oh — and could it also be electrifying and playful and fun?

Amazingly it could, culminating in “See How They Fly,” a mind-bending, gravity-defying finale that successfully landed this improbable airship.

Like a fine watch or a chicken’s egg, the symbols the finale returned to, this season was a marvel of self-contained engineering. It succeeded, first, in craft and performance, with visual invention and memorable work from [Hong] Chau, Regina King, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr. and many others. It set up a domino chain of mysteries that the finale satisfyingly paid off.

But it also created something more: an urgent entertainment that was as unignorable as the pealing of an alarm bell.

And by coincidence, researchers at the University of Oklahoma say they have found evidence of a mass grave containing the remains of victims of the 1921 white terrorism attack that wiped out the African-American section of Tulsa--a major plot-point of Watchmen:

Geophysical scanning identified two spots at the Oaklawn Cemetery that might bear bodies of those killed in the city's race riots almost 100 years ago, Scott Hammerstedt, a senior researcher for the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, said Monday at a public hearing in Tulsa.

Surveys confirmed suspicions that one area might be a grave, in addition to a newly discovered trench under the soil of about 30 by 25 feet.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum initiated an investigation into rumored mass graves of the Tulsa Race Massacre in October 2018, calling the riots a "point of shame for our community," NBC affiliate KJRH reported at the time.

You don't think of Oklahoma as a particularly nasty place to be a person of color. But it always has been. Just ask Pore Jud.

Lunchtime reading

A diverse flock this afternoon:

Your coder will now resume coding his previously-coded code.