The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Not all horrible news

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:

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.

A little light reading

Yesterday I started Federico Finchelstein's new book A Brief History of Fascist Lies, and it may have kept me awake longer than I wanted last night. Finchelstein's central thesis is that for fascists, truth was a matter of faith, not of empirical fact, and this truth was made incarnate in the fascist leader:

Fascism defended a divine, messianic, and charismatic form of leadership that conceived of the leader as organically linked to the people and the nation. It considered popular sovereignty to be fully delegated to the dictator, who acted in the name of the community of the people and knew better than they what they truly wanted. Fascists replaced history and empirically based notions of truth with political myth. ... Fascism aimed to create a new and epochal world order through an incremental continuum of extreme political violence and war.

At root, fascists believed fantasy, and disbelieved reality that didn't fit their myths:

In their search for a truth that did not coincide with the experienced world, fascists resorted to making metaphors reality. There was nothing true about ideological falsehoods, but their adherents nonetheless wanted to make these lies real enough. They conceived what they saw and did not like as untruth. [Emphasis in original.] ...

For Mussolini, reality had to follow mythical imperatives. Too bad if people were not initially convinced; their disbelief also needed to be challenged. The mythical framework of fascism was rooted in the fascist myth of the nation.

In other words, arguing facts with a fascist had no effect because facts didn't matter to them. Only their beliefs mattered. A psychologist might call this "malignant narcissism."

I'm only a quarter the way in, but I'll probably finish it tonight. Finchelstein has given me a missing piece in my understanding of the creeping authoritarian nationalism plaguing the world right now. As he says in his introduction, "Populism is fascism adapted to democracy;" however, "populists merely want to diminish the power of representative democracy, whereas fascists wanted to end democracy."

Even the first couple of chapters has given me a lot to think about. I'll write more as I think about it more.

Afternoon news roundup

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.

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, 50 years ago today

On 4 May 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students at Kent State University outside Cleveland:

The sky was cloudless, the spring air warm and still. As the morning wore on, the growing crowd of students, now numbering in the thousands, became feisty, and some taunted the soldiers. Just after noon, a group of guardsmen suddenly huddled together, retreated briefly, wheeled toward the right, turned in tandem and fired at the students for 13 seconds.

The students were not only unarmed; most didn’t realize that the guards’ rifles held live ammunition. Four students were killed: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. Nine others were injured. After 50 years, we still don’t know why the guard turned and fired.

While Kent State was not the only instance of violence against student protesters, it immediately became a byword for state-sanctioned violence. Campuses nationwide erupted in protest. Krause, Miller, Scheuer and Schroeder became martyrs, their deaths memorialized by the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in their song “Ohio.” The tremors were felt all the way to the White House; according to H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, they precipitated the sense of political paranoia within the administration that set Watergate in motion.

The May 4 shootings were viewed very differently by conservatives and liberals; most conservatives endorsed the National Guard’s actions and at best wrote off the shooting as a tragic accident, at worst as the protesters’ just dessert — a position that liberals and the left found unimaginable. “Just as many consider shootings by the police to be ridding the streets of ‘thugs,’ the killings at Kent State were also celebrated by many. ‘National Guard 4, Students 0,’ or ‘They Should have Shot 400’ were commonly voiced views,” Professor Grace wrote, finding a vicious split that is echoed today over everything from climate change to the Kavanaugh hearings.

We also need to recognize the way that Kent State is viewed through race. The students shot on May 4, all white, became martyrs; most people have forgotten that less than two weeks later, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two students in Mississippi, were killed by police officers in the wake of a false rumor about the death of a civil rights leader. And while Kent State stands out as an exception — National Guardsmen killing white college students — over the years, state authorities have killed far more African-American protesters than whites.

The Guardian says the shootings "marked the start of America's polarization."

We're finally on our own.

Gosh, where to begin?

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:

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.

Back to your regularly-scheduled horror movie

Congratulations! You've made it to the end of April. This month has felt like one of the longest years of my life, and probably yours.

So as we head into May, here's what the last few hours of April have wrought:

Well, the only cops I've seen out in force recently were the guys who responded to a shooting and captured the two suspects a block from my home. (Yeah, that happened, and it didn't even make the paper.)

The US is now a joke to the rest of the world

Thanks, Obama!

No, really. The countries that don't pity us are laughing their asses off. This video from a Chinese satire program sums it up nicely:

Josh Marshall is outraged—at the Trump Administration:

[The video] is certainly self-serving from the Chinese perspective. But big picture, good lord, pretty much completely guilty as charged. China initially bobbled the outbreak, had a major crisis. They mobilized. They shared information with the world. They mounted a massive, historic containment effort, built whole hospitals in a matter of days. The US hung back and did a mix of ignoring it or talking down to the Chinese. Look how they wear masks! Haha. Masks don’t work. Whether poo-pooing or derision the big message was that this didn’t have anything to do with us. Or it was a hoax. Until we had our own catastrophic outbreak and then suddenly you didn’t tell us! You hid the truth from us! You will pay the price! Also please send us masks! We really need masks! Please!

On COVID19 we are not only suffering horribly. We are also a joke. “We” is doing a lot of work here. “We” is really our national government, the Trump administration. But for the moment it’s the only national government we have and it’s calling the shots. As the closing puts it “Gosh!! Just listen to yourself.” Perhaps most tellingly, with perhaps the greatest longterm repercussions, the Trump administration has failed so badly, so accurately modeled the behavior of five year olds that we’ve gone a decent way toward discrediting the model of civic democracy and the rule of law we should be supporting at home and around the world. We’ve done about as good a job as one could imagine telling the story that maybe the authoritarians just handle things better.

It’s embarrassing. We’re an embarrassment.

I know it won't make anyone change his or her mind about why (or even whether) Russia interfered in our 2016 election, but this outcome is glorious for Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinpeng, and every other authoritarian and totalitarian out there.

Elections matter.

Modern GOP origin story

The Hulu biopic "Mrs America" gives you the founding matron of the modern Republican Party, in all her crazy:

It tells the story of the 1970s battle over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that pitted feminists such as Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba) against a woman named Phyllis Schlafly who would become the godmother of modern conservatism. Schlafly, who is portrayed with icy hauteur by the sublime Cate Blanchett, was a walking paradox: This champion of “homemakers” was herself a liberated woman who devoted most of her energy to political activism, not to looking after her husband and six children.

Schlafly specialized in incendiary — and far-fetched — claims that passage of the ERA would eliminate alimony, child support and single-sex bathrooms and force women into combat. “Mrs. America” shows television host Phil Donahue challenging her assertions. The fictional Schlafly replies with a tirade comparing the feminists to the Bolsheviks and predicting that before long we would be “living in a feminist totalitarian nightmare.”

Schlafly pioneered the kind of incendiary, irrational rhetoric that galvanized much of the conservative movement during its early years — and, sadly, continues to excite it today. There was always a big difference, however, between what activists like her said and how Republican officeholders acted. Even the most conservative presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were far more moderate.

Meanwhile, between Vice President Mike Pence refusing to wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic (to "look people in the eyes," which is odd if you know how masks work) while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doing everything he can to piss off everyone who lives in a town of more than 2,500 people, one starts to see hope that these raging incompetents and nihilists could leave office next January. This, while Covid-19 deaths in the US have officially passed the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War (though unofficially we seem to have passed that mark a few weeks ago).

I wonder what Nero's favorables were?

We won't have won, of course, because nearly half the country are incompetent nihilists. But we might at least get a breather.

Stupid is more contagious than smart

A small-town Republican Illinois State Representative sued in a small-town State court to have Governor Pritzker's stay-at-home order overturned—for himself, personally:

The ruling by Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney came in a lawsuit filed by Bailey, a Republican from the small town of Xenia, which challenged Pritzker’s authority to issue extended stay-at-home orders under the state’s Emergency Management Act.

In seeking the injunction April 23, Bailey asked the judge to find that the lawmaker was “irreparably harmed each day he is subjected to” Pritzker’s executive order and to enjoin the governor or anyone under his authority “from enforcing the March 20 executive order against Bailey from this date forward," and any subsequent orders that would do the same.

McHaney’s order said Pritzker was prohibited “from in any way enforcing the March 20 executive order against Darren Bailey forcing him to isolate and quarantine in his home," or any subsequent orders that would do the same.

Bailey’s lawsuit shows how government’s regulatory response to the coronavirus has inflamed already heightened regional tensions between rural areas and the Chicago area.

Residents in central and southern Illinois, areas that have become increasingly conservative and heavily Republican while seeing declines in industry and population, have chafed over what they believe is a state run by Chicago, imposing upon them the city’s liberal ideology and beliefs.

Pritzker contended Bailey was attempting to use the coronavirus restrictions to play to his rural constituency.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnists Philip Bump and Ashley Parker reviewed all 13 hours of President Trump's press conferences this month to figure out how he used all that time:

Over the past three weeks, the tally comes to more than 13 hours of Trump — including two hours spent on attacks and 45 minutes praising himself and his administration, but just 4½ minutes expressing condolences for coronavirus victims. He spent twice as much time promoting an unproven antimalarial drug that was the object of a Food and Drug Administration warning Friday. Trump also said something false or misleading in nearly a quarter of his prepared comments or answers to questions, the analysis shows.

The Post analysis of Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings over the past three weeks — from Monday, April 6, to Friday, April 24 — reveals a president using the White House lectern to vent and rage; to dispense dubious and even dangerous medical advice; and to lavish praise upon himself and his government.

Trump has attacked someone in 113 out of 346 questions he has answered — or a third of his responses. He has offered false or misleading information in nearly 25 percent of his remarks. And he has played videos praising himself and his administration’s efforts three times, including one that was widely derided as campaign propaganda produced by White House aides at taxpayer expense.

Expressions of empathy from Trump are rare. The president has mentioned coronavirus victims in just eight briefings in three weeks, mostly in prepared remarks. In the first week of April, when the nation’s focus was largely on the hard-hit New York region, Trump began several briefings by expressing his condolences for the victims there.

Forty years of warfare against expertise, science, and reason have produced a Republican Party uniquely incapable of governing during a crisis. But this is a feature, not a bug, since they don't actually want to govern; they want to rule.

President of the Continental Congress

The only president this country has right now massively trolled my party and my state today:

As talk in Washington has swiftly moved to the next coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump on Monday questioned whether federal taxpayers should provide money of “poorly run” states and cities run by Democrats, specifically citing Illinois.

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump asked on Twitter.

Controversy over federal help to states was magnified when Illinois Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park earlier this month asked the state’s congressional delegation for more than $41.6 billion in federal aid, including $10 billion for the state’s vastly underfunded public employee pension system.

The state’s five GOP congressman rejected the request as an attempt to use federal money to paper over decades of mismanagement, including the pensions which have a $138 billion unfunded liability.

Well, why not? We've spent decades subsidizing Republican states for their unconscionable mismanagement of schools, disaster planning, highway construction...basically, we've subsidized their low tax rates and massive inequality. (Also, density in places like New York actually saves more lives every year than the pandemic will take this year.)

Obviously it's stupid to Balkanize the US. We are one nation. And we have been since 1789. Seriously, Republicans, if you don't like the Federal system, then let's see you pass a Constitutional amendment giving states the right to secede. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the nation has seen about 15,000 excess deaths in the past month, suggesting massive under-reporting of Covid-19 cases. And New York State has postponed the Democratic Party primary election from June 23rd to possibly just before the party's convention in August.