Now that I'm more than two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, I'm heading to O'Hare tomorrow for the first time since January 2020. I remember back in September 2018 when I finally broke my longest-ever drought from flying of 221 days. Tomorrow will mark 481 days grounded.
But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm interested in the following:
And finally, Chicago's endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have laid three eggs. We should see baby piping plovers in about four weeks.
The four-year, $40m Navy Pier flyover finally opened this week after 7 years and $64m:
The $64 million flyover, started in 2014, was originally planned for a ribbon-cutting in 2018 but it was repeatedly delayed. The 1,750-foot-long, 16-foot-wide steel and concrete flyover goes from Ohio Street Beach to the south side of the Chicago River.
City officials have blamed prior delays both on issues with the Lake Shore Drive bridge and a delay in getting funding from the state during the budget crisis under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
With the substantial completion of the Flyover, built to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from being in conflict with auto traffic, the Lakefront Trail now runs, uninterrupted, from Hollywood Avenue to 71st Street, according to the city.
Block Club Chicago has photos.
The biggest budget increase came when engineers discovered that the original plan to tunnel through the southeast Lake Shore Drive bridge tower would have cut a load-bearing column. But like so much in Chicago, the biggest delay came from our incompetent and ideologically-blinkered former governor refusing to fund the state government for two years.
But hey, it's open now, so bikes and runners no longer take their lives into their hands crossing the off-ramp from Lake Shore Drive to Grand Avenue.
A supporter of the XPOTUS has organized, with the help of the Arizona State Senate, a private hand-recount of Maricopa County's ballots. Apparently they're looking for bamboo fibers? Yeah, it's just as crazy as it sounds:
On the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where Sir Charles Barkley once dunked basketballs and Hulk Hogan wrestled King Kong Bundy, 46 tables are arrayed in neat rows, each with a Lazy Susan in the middle.
Seated at the tables are several dozen people, mostly Republicans, who spend hours watching ballots spin by, photographing them or inspecting them closely. They are counting them and checking to see if there is any sign they were flown in surreptitiously from South Korea. A few weeks ago they were holding them up to ultraviolet lights, looking for a watermark rumored to be a sign of fraud.
The 2.1 million ballots were already counted by Maricopa County election officials in November, validated in a partial hand recount and certified by Gov. Doug Ducey. Two extra audits confirmed no issues. No evidence of fraud sufficient to invalidate Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona and Maricopa County has been found.
Still, counters are being paid $15 an hour to scrutinize each ballot, examining folds and taking close-up photos looking for machine-marked ballots and bamboo fibers in the paper. The reason appears to be to test a conspiracy theory that a plane from South Korea delivered counterfeit ballots to the Phoenix airport shortly after the election.
When the recount started, the ballots were viewed under ultraviolet light to check for watermarks. A theory popular with QAnon followers has it that Trump secretly watermarked mail ballots to catch cheating.
Meanwhile, our named adversary, Russia, continues to disrupt our economy with impunity because people don't know how to do security.
Spring has gone on spring break this week, so while I find the weather pleasant and enjoyable, it still feels like mid-March. That makes it more palatable to remain indoors for lunch and catch up on these stories:
And finally, via Bruce Schneier, Australia has proposed starting cyber-security training in Kindergartens.
Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.
Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:
And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.
After languishing for four years while former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) refused to govern, Metra's Peterson/Ridge station project...has stalled again:
Crews for Metra were slated to break ground in May on the train station at Peterson and Ravenswood avenues. Due to a permitting issue with the city, work will be delayed by roughly three to five months, said Joe Ott, director of Metra’s construction department.
If the permits take any longer to secure, major construction on the new station could be pushed to spring 2022, he said.
The problem is that the ground beneath the station holds city water mains, and the city’s Department of Water Management was worried about groundwater from the station leaking into the water mains, he said. The city agency said the project’s groundwater system needs revision before a permit will be granted.
It is just the latest setback for a project first announced in 2012.
The project fell by the wayside during the state’s years-long budget impasse. Local officials said in 2017 funding for the project was nearly secured, but a $1 billion fund earmarked for Metra was slashed in half that year.
At least they've cleared the vacant lot connecting where the station will go. Apparently they've also put up a sign. It's a start, I suppose.
In tangential news, Amtrak announced that it will offer tickets up to 50% off to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. I wish my travel plans would allow me to take a long train trip somewhere.
House Democrats passed a bill granting statehood to the District of Columbia yesterday afternoon. It has a better chance of becoming law than the last one:
The bill, symbolically titled H.R. 51, now heads to the Senate, where proponents hope to break new ground — including a first-ever hearing in that chamber. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged Tuesday that “we will try to work a path to get [statehood] done,” and the White House asked Congress in a policy statement to pass the legislation as swiftly as possible.
But the political odds remain formidable, with the Senate filibuster requiring the support of 60 senators to advance legislation. Republicans, who hold 50 seats, have branded the bill as a Democratic power grab because it would create two Senate seats for the deep-blue city. Not even all Senate Democrats have backed the bill as the clock ticks toward the 2022 midterm election.
H.R. 51 would shrink the federal district to a two-square-mile enclave, including federal buildings such as the Capitol and the White House. The city’s other residential and commercial areas would become the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Of course, without filibuster reform, it won't get a vote in the Senate. So we may have to try again in 2023. But this one may squeak by, as it's really hard for Republicans to deny that keeping 750,000 people from representation in Congress looks bad, even for them.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is, officially, a felon and a murderer. The jury deliberated for longer than 9 minutes and 28 seconds, but not much longer.
Good luck in gen pop, you racist thug.
- Barack Obama: "[I]f we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial."
- Jennifer Rubin: "Tuesday’s verdict, which is likely to be appealed, does not mean the overarching problem of racism in policing is resolved."
- US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): "That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice."
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY): "I'm thankful for George Floyd’s family that justice was served. America was forever changed by the video of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd. However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved. We'll keep working for meaningful change"
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): ""
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): "George Floyd should be alive today. His family’s calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don't suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act."
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): ""
- Andy Borowitz: "Chauvin’s Defense Team Blames Guilty Verdict on Jury’s Ability To See"
- The Onion: "‘This Is Strike One, Mr. Chauvin,’ Says Judge Reading Guilty Verdict Before Handing Gun, Badge Back"
We have a long way to go. But maybe, just maybe, this is a start, and not an aberration.
I'm sure I must have read this when it came out, but I have just (re-?)read Andrew Sullivan's 2019 essay "Our Caesar," just to refresh my sadness at the parallels between early-21st-century America and early-2nd-century-BCE Rome:
It’s impossible to review the demise of the Roman Republic and not be struck by the parallel dynamics in America in 2019. We now live, as the Romans did, in an economy of massive wealth increasingly monopolized by the very rich, in which the whole notion of principled public service has been eclipsed by the pursuit of private wealth and reality-show fame. Cynicism about the system is endemic, as in Rome. The concept of public service has evaporated as swiftly as trust in government had collapsed. When the republican virtues of a Robert Mueller collided this year with the populist pathologies of Donald Trump, we saw how easily a culture that gave us Cicero could turn into a culture that gave us Caesar.
Some argue that although the president has obviously attempted to break the law many times and lies with pathological abandon, he still hasn’t openly defied a court order, suspended an election, or authorized something as lawless as torture. He talks and walks like a dictator, but in practice, his incompetence and inability to focus or plan or even read saves us. That, it seems to me, misses three things. The first is the president’s rhetoric. What happened to the Roman republic was a slow slide into public illegitimacy, intensified by the way in which elites played by the rules only when it suited them and broke precedents and norms when it came to defending their own interests, complaining loudly when others did the same.
If republican virtues and liberal democratic values are a forest of traditions and norms, Trump has created a vast and expanding clearing. What Rome’s experience definitively shows is that once this space is cleared, even if it is not immediately filled, some day it will be. Someone shrewder, more ruthless, focused, and competent, can easily exploit the wider vista for authoritarianism. Or Trump himself, more liberated than ever in a second term, huffing the fumes of his own power, could cross a Rubicon for which he has prepared us all.
It took about 200 years and unending civil war for the Roman Republic to become the Roman Empire. How much time have we got?
Some stories in the news this week:
Finally, the House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced DC statehood legislation. The full house may even pass the DC Admission Act next week.