Today I'll try to avoid the most depressing stories:
- The North Shore Channel Trail bridge just north of Lincoln Avenue opened this week, completing an 11 km continuous path from Lincoln Square to Evanston.
- Experts warn that herd immunity (a) is an economic concept, not a health concept and (b) shouldn't apply to humans because we're not herd animals.
- Wisconsin remains in total chaos today after the state supreme court terminated Governor Tony Evans' stay-at-home order, approximately two weeks before a predictable, massive uptick in Covid-19 cases.
- Delta Airlines has decided to retire its fleet of 18 B777 airplanes years ahead of schedule due to an unexpected drop in demand for air travel.
- The pro-contagion, rabid right-wingers flashing placards saying "Be Like Sweden" clearly have no comprehension of Sweden's efforts to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
- US retail sales declined 16.4% in April, pushing the total decline since February to nearly 25%, the worst decline in history.
- Wired has a portrait of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who stopped the WannaCry virus from killing us all and then went to jail for his previous activities designing and spreading malware.
- Andrew Sullivan tells the story of Samuel Pepys, "the very first pandemic blogger."
Finally, Vanity Fair has reprinted its 1931 cover article on Al Capone, which seems somehow timely.
The bascule bridge over the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue turned 100 today. The Chicago Tribune has photos.
And the New York Times interviewed science-fiction author John Scalzi, whose The Last Emperox came out two weeks ago.
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.
So believes NYU media professor Jay Rosen about how President Trump will try to win this fall:
The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.
Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. ... The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.
In other fun stories:
Oh, and 151 years ago today, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads completed the Transcontinental Railroad.
The differences in the way Democrats and Republicans have approached the pandemic shouldn't surprise or shock anyone, but one might still expect Republicans not to say the quiet parts quite so loudly. Last week, 3.2 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 33.5 million since mid-March and the unemployment rate to nearly 20%. The last time we had 20% unemployment, Herbert Hoover (a Republican, let's remember) sat on his ass in the Oval Office waiting for the market to fix itself. Millions starved and lost their homes. The economy didn't recover fully for over a decade, and then only because we had to mobilize the economy around the biggest war in human history.
So how is this Republican administration trying to save the economy? Pretty much the same way Hoover's did, except with less compassion and more stupidity.
This morning, the Small Business Administration announced that its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program had all but run out of money, so they won't accept new applicants and they will only give out $150,000 awards instead of the $2m loans people have applied for.
Here in Illinois, downstate Republicans want to reopen businesses soon rather than wait for the empirical triggers in Governor Pritzker's plan to apply. What they haven't said here, but what seems obvious from the experiences of other states, like Georgia, is that they want to reduce unemployment insurance payments by forcing low-income workers back to work even if it's not safe. What do the owners or Republican legislators care, right? See, if shops and businesses are legally entitled to open, and workers refuse to go in because, you know, they want to live a few years longer, then the workers will no longer qualify for unemployment insurance. QED. This is almost explicitly Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's plan.
As Josh Marshall wrote today, "Again and again, the Trump Era forces us to the crudest and most unsubtle portrayals of the role of wealth and privilege in our society. But it’s no surprise since that is the essence of Trumpism."
Finally, one of the president's valets tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, which reportedly made the president angry. Did the president express concern for the guy or his family? Oh, how droll.
Remember slow news days? Me neither.
And finally, a cute diner in Toronto where I had breakfast last June has moved to delivery service during the lockdown. Too bad they can't deliver to Chicago.
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.
As Illinois hits 2,662 Covid-19 deaths and the CDC says the country will hit about that number every day by month's end, May the 4th be with us:
So it wasn't all horrible news today.
Happy May Day! Or m'aidez? Hard to know for sure right now. The weather in Chicago is sunny and almost the right temperature, and I have had some remarkable productivity at work this week, so in that respect I'm pretty happy.
But I woke up this morning to the news that Ravinia has cancelled its entire 2020 season, including a performance of Bernstein's White House Cantata that featured my group, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. This is the first time Ravinia has done so since 1935.
If only that were everything.
First, via Josh Marshall, former Obama Administration disaster-preparedness expert Jeremy Konydndyk lays out the facts about our plateau (60,000 excess weekly deaths) and how the Trump Administration continues to do nothing to help us slow Covid-19 deaths.
Next, all of this:
- The Experimental Aviation Association cancelled AirVenture 2020, the huge annual fly-in that brings thousands of airplanes to Oshkosh, Wis. (Bonus: video of a brand-new Airbus A-380 landing at the small Wisconsin airport in 2009.)
- The New Republic on "the morbid ideology behind the drive to reopen America."
- Republican legislatures and governors made it harder to get unemployment benefits in general, which makes it needlessly difficult to get them in this current crisis.
- Trump whipped out his "very good people" trope to support the armed protesters who stormed the Michigan State Capitol this week.
- Paul Krugman: "Crashing economy, rising stocks: What's going on?"
- Megan Garber: "Groundhog Day was a horror movie all along."
- Bruce Schneier says Covid-19 contact tracing apps "have absolutely no value." Only "ubiquitous, cheap, fast, and accurate testing" will make a difference.
- Alexandra Petri: "Heroes, we cannot possibly repay you for your sacrifice, so we will make no effort to." ("We will give you everything except PPE, and we will offer you all the thanks in the world but an increase in compensation.")
But some good news:
Finally, while alarming in its own right, the record water levels in Lake Michigan (4 months in a row now) have exposed some historic shipwrecks.