The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It all just keeps coming, you know?

Welcome to day 31 of the Illinois shelter-in-place regime, which also turns out to be day 36 of my own working-from-home regime (or day 43 if you ignore that I had to go into the office on March 16th). So what's new?

Oy:

Finally, via Bruce Schneier, the Dutch intelligence service had an unintentional back door into several other countries' communications. (Scheier says, "It seems to be clever cryptanalysis rather than a backdoor.")

How crude

Demand for petroleum has crashed so hard and so fast that North American oil producers have run out of space to store the excess. This morning the price of US crude collapsed, falling 105 500% to $-2 $-37.63 per barrel; Canadian oil prices also dropped negative. That's right, if you want to take a million or so barrels off their hands, they'll pay you to do so. (This only affects delivery by month's end; for delivery in May, oil still costs $20 a barrel.)

Meanwhile, in other horrific news:

Finally, the Covid-19 emergency has led to mass layoffs of architects, one of the hardest-hit professions in any recession. I'm currently reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, his biography of Robert Moses, and just at the point where he mentions that in 1934, 5 out of 6 architects had lost their jobs. Everything old is new again.

Liberate Minnesota!

No, really, the president Tweeted that earlier today:

I mean, what the actual f? (He also wants to liberate Michigan and Virginia, by the way.) Charlie Pierce warned only Monday that this kind of nonsense was coming:

The acting director of the Office of National Intelligence is encouraging citizens to break local laws, endangering themselves and others, in the middle of a pandemic. Of all the screwy moments that we have experienced since the founding of Camp Runamuck, this is going to rank very close to the top. And it is not going to be a surprise to anyone if another AstroTurf movement similar to the Tea Party rises, especially if the president* “opens up” the country at the beginning of May.

This nonsense is coming, and it’s going to be encouraged by the national government, and I don’t know how we avoid it.

Andrew Sullivan, after point out that the virus doesn't have a social message, breathed a sigh of relief that Trump is so very lazy:

But of course we all know by now, including the Republicans, that it is meaningless. Trump claims the powers of a tyrant, behaves like one, talks like one, struts like one, has broken every norm a liberal democracy requires, and set dangerous precedents that could enable a serious collapse in constitutional norms in the future.

This, in Bill Kristol’s rather brilliant phrase, is “performative authoritarianism.” It has a real cost — it delegitimizes liberal democracy by mocking it and corrodes democratic institutions by undermining them. But it is not the cost of finding ourselves run by an American Victor Orban. Orban saw the coronavirus emergency the way most wannabe strongmen would and the way I feared Trump might: as an opportunity to further neuter any constitutional checks on him and rule by decree. Trump saw it purely as an obstacle to his reelection message about a booming economy, a blot on his self-image, an unfair spoiling of his term. Instead of exploiting it, he whined about it. He is incapable of empathy and so simply cannot channel the nation’s grief into a plan of action. So he rambles and digresses and divides and inflames. He has managed in this crisis to tell us both that he is all-powerful and that he takes no responsibility for anything.

And I suspect that this creepy vaudeville act, in a worried and tense country, is beginning to wear real thin. A man who claims total power but only exercises it to protect his personal interests, a man who vaunts his own authority but tolerates no accountability for it, is impressing no one.

The emergency I feared Trump could leverage to untrammeled power may, in fact, be the single clearest demonstration of his incompetence and irrelevance

Simply put, "Trump can't lie his way out of this one," as several pundits have observed. Also:

Fun times, fun times. Good thing it will actually seem like spring tomorrow in Chicago after another snowfall last night.

And you thought things were getting better

The number of new Covid-19 cases per day may have peaked in Illinois, but that still means we have new cases every day. We have over 10,000 infected in the state, with the doubling period now at 12 days (from 2 days back mid-March). This coincides with unpleasant news from around the world:

  • Covid-19 has become the second-leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 12,400 deaths per week, just behind heart disease which kills about 12,600.
  • More than 5 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total unemployed to 22 million, the highest percentage of Americans out of work since 1933. April unemployment figures come out May 8th, when we will likely have confirmation of a 13-15% unemployment rate. Note that the unemployment rate was the lowest in history just two months ago.
  • Consumer spending on nearly everything except groceries has fallen, in some places catastrophically. Chicago's heavy-rail authority, Metra, has seen ridership fall 97% system-wide and predicts a $500 million budget deficit this year. (For my own part, since my March 31st post on the subject, my spending on dining out, lunch, and groceries combined has fallen 70% month-over-month.)
  • UK Foreign Secretary (and acting Prime Minister) Dominic Raab announced today that lockdown measures would continue in the UK "for at least the next three weeks," reasoning that premature relaxation would lead to a resurgence of the virus as seen worldwide in 1918.
  • FiveThirtyEight explains why Covid-19 has caused so much more disruption than Ebola, SARS-1, and swine flu.
  • Talking Points Memo takes a deeper look at the hidden mortality of Covid-19.
  • Brian Dennehy has died at 81.
  • Chicago could get 75 mm of snow tonight. In April. The middle of Spring. FFS.

But we also got some neutral-to-good news today:

I pitched the Goat-2-Meeting to my chorus board for our next meeting, and unfortunately got told we don't donate to other NPCs. I guess we're not a bleating-heart organization.

He just can't help it

Today's Covid-19 news roundup highlights how no one in the White House should go anywhere near this crisis response effort:

All of this, and we still have an hour to go before lunch.

There was one bit of good news, though. The National Transportation Safety Board released a report this week that said air-transport fatalities dropped by 75% between the 1983-2000 period and 2001-2017. One expects that Covid-19 will reduce those numbers even further.

April is the cruelest month

Chicago might have been breeding lilacs out of the dead land yesterday, but today we woke up to this:

Because so few people are going in to the office these days, the expressways have almost no traffic. So people drive faster. Which led to this earlier this morning:

About 60 vehicles were involved in a massive pile-up on an ice-slickened Kennedy Expressway near North Avenue early Wednesday, sending 14 people to hospitals as 45 others were evaluated on the scene, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

Fire officials and the Illinois state police blamed icy conditions for causing the multiple collisions on the Kennedy around 5 a.m, as well as crashes throughout the Chicago area.

“Overnight conditions deteriorated. We got some snow. Some icy conditions on the expressway. Vehicles driving at high rates of speed caused the accident,” Deputy District Fire Chief John Giordano told reporters at the scene. “It caused an effect where vehicles couldn’t stop behind them because of the high speeds they were traveling, and thus the amount of vehicles we have at this time.”

All inbound lanes on the Kennedy near North Avenue will be closed for several hours, according to Illinois State Police. Several outbound lanes are also closed. The fire department warned drivers to be aware of the road conditions and to avoid the Kennedy.

State police reported that troopers have responded to other vehicle crashes throughout the area. Injuries have been reported but none appear to be life threatening.

Good job, guys. I'm glad no one got seriously hurt.

The weather forecast calls for a high today around 4°C, and 8°C tomorrow, so the snow should melt before lunchtime tomorrow, if not before sundown tonight.

We may be flattening a bit

Illinois' doubling time for Covid-19 cases has increased from 2.1 days to 7.9 days, as of yesterday.

In other news:

And finally, I'll leave you with this touching performance of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" by its composer, Curt Smith, and his daughter Diva:

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright

Architects may come and architects may go, but usually their houses sell for more than the value of the land alone:

Twelve and a half years after it went up for sale, a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Elmhurst sold yesterday for about the value of the land it’s on.

Built in 1901 and known as the Frank B. Henderson house, the five-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot house on Kenilworth Avenue sold for $825,000. It first came on the market in September 2007 at nearly $2 million.

The house won’t be demolished. An easement in the deed prohibits that, and the buyers are longtime Wright fans who confirmed to Crain’s today that they plan to move in. Nevertheless, the sale of a work by the 20th century’s best known architect, a house filled with his distinctive patterned windows, banded woodwork and oversized brick fireplace, for the mere value of the land is notable.

It’s the latest evidence of the ongoing phenomenon of artful Wright houses selling for below the overall market. The Elmhurst sale comes on the heels of the December sale of a Wright house in Glencoe at a little more than half the going rate for comparably sized homes in the town.

The house is on a 22,800-square-foot 2,200 m² lot, which breaks the sale price out to $375 per m². In January, a church a block away sold a buildable piece of its parking lot for $447 per m² to a family who plan to build a new house there.

Five other pieces of land or obsolete houses sold as teardowns, all in Elmhurst, have sold for between $208 per m² $20 and $479 per m² in the past several months, according to Crain’s analysis of real estate records.

Having toured a few Lloyd Wright houses, I know why: they're dark, weirdly laid out, hard to maintain, and often come with uncomfortable furniture he designed to fit in the houses. I'm not alone in thinking he was overrated, being too inflexible and narcissistic to listen to people who knew more about living spaces than he did. It's like he took the prairie style developed by his mentor, Louis Sullivan, and took it to such an extreme that no rational person would want to live in one.

So, great news for the buyers who got the house for a song. They will own it for about 10 years longer than they want to, I'd wager.

Is it July yet?

An Andy Borowitz bit from last year is making the rounds again: "Trump Comes Out Strongly Against Intelligence." More evidence of why that's true after these two videos. First, the Ohio Department of Health demonstrates social distancing:

Second, the Lincoln Project, a Republican organization headed by George Conway, has put out this ad:

And now the roundup of horror promised above:

Finally, 50 years ago today, Paul McCartney announced the Beatles had broken up.

Oh wait: here's another cool video.