I'm setting these aside to read after I race around my house closing windows in a few minutes:
I'm working on a longer-form entry bringing together some of the more serious books and essays I've read on our current situation.
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.
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.
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.
A couple of blocks from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, artist Jim Bachor has made mosaic art in potholes. He added two new installations in the last couple of weeks:
The mosaics depict a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of Purell and a can of Old Style, each depicted with halos. Such items have been in limited supply as Americans stocked up amid the pandemic or — as in the case of the beer can — because they’re a product people have relied on for solace during this unprecedented time.
“People are adoring these things, and everyone is drinking more these days,” Bachor said. “It’s a universal thing that everyone can relate to.”
The fourth mosaic depicts a star from the Chicago flag, meant to generate civic pride, Bachor said.
The pothole art project began in 2013, starting in Chicago and expanding to 85 mini-mosaics in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Italy and the Netherlands. Potholes are universal in nature in that they happen in all locations and are despised by drivers everywhere. Bachor likes to fill potholes with images of other universally recognized items, including Cheetos bags and crushed beer cans.
Why he chose that particular block I do not know. Here's my own photo of one:
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.
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.
Unemployment claims jumped another 6.6 million in the US last week bringing the total reported unemployed to 16.8 million, the largest number of unemployment claims since the 1930s. Illinois saw 200,000 new claims, an all-time record, affecting 1 in 12 Illinois workers. And that's just one headline today:
After all of that, why don't you watch this adorable video of skunks chattering away as they investigate a cyclist?