The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

157,000 deaths

I am trying to put that number into perspective.

  • Assuming 112.5 passengers per flight (4.378 billion passengers carried in 2018 divided by 38.9 million flights[1]), that's the equivalent of 1,395 air-transport crashes this year.
  • It's approximately the number of deaths from nuclear weapons, ever[2].
  • More Americans have died from Covid-19 in the US than died in World War I and the Vietnam War, combined[3].
  • It is more than the total number of people who died in New York State in 2017 from all causes[4].
  • More Americans have died of Covid-19 than Asians and Africans combined, and we have equaled the number of deaths in the entirety of Continental Europe.[5]

And the president and the Republican Party have let it continue through incompetence, malice, and negligence.

[1] Source: Statista, IATA.
[2] From 6 August to 31 December 1945, the US Army estimated 90,000-120,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 60,000-90,000 deaths in Nagasaki due to the atomic bombings. Source: UCLA.
[3] Source: Wikipedia.
[4] Source: NYS Dept of Health.
[5] Source: Worldometers

The Republicans in Congress really don't care about 2020

Given Gerrymandering, the Senate's design favoring rural states, and a host of other factors, most Republicans in Congress will keep their jobs in January. Even though the best likely outcome of November's election is just two more years of gridlock before Democrats re-take the Senate, the vast majority simply don't care:

It seems relevant, for instance, that while President Trump and a few Republican incumbents seem to be in genuine trouble, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are certain to keep their jobs. In the Senate, most Republicans aren’t up for reelection, and most of those who are aren’t facing particularly competitive races. As of last week, The Cook Political Report has rated nine Republican seats as either Lean Democratic, Lean Republican, or Tossups for November—that’s only about a sixth of the Senate Republican caucus. Cook also estimates that there are 90 competitive races in the House, representing only about a fifth of that chamber’s seats. That includes races facing 32 incumbent Republicans, which account for just a sixth of the House Republican caucus. During the 2018 midterms, 91% of House members and 84% of Senators up for reelection were reelected; in 2016, those figures were 97% and 93% respectively.

One might object that even safe Republicans presumably want the party as a whole to keep the Senate and the White House and prevent Democrats from taking power. But the notion that most Republicans care about the party’s fortunes as much or more than their own careers seems dubious—if this was the case, they probably wouldn’t be backing ideas that might cross-pressure and endanger their vulnerable colleagues to begin with. And the most Republicans can realistically hope for are at least two more years of legislative stalemate anyway—it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to take back the House. In a Wednesday piece chastising moderate Republicans who plan on voting against the party in November, National Review editor Rich Lowry couldn’t come up with a single policy item Republicans should look forward to enacting in another Trump term.

It should be well understood by now that even if Republicans lose the White House and the Senate—and of course, neither victory is assured—the Democrats’ ability to pass Joe Biden’s agenda will be limited by the Senate filibuster. Although Biden has suggested in recent weeks that he’s open to ditching it to overcome Republican obstruction, the decision is ultimately up to Democratic senators themselves, and pivotal moderates still oppose the move. The filibuster aside, the conservative structural advantage in the chamber will probably be in good shape for some time. Adding Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states would help Democrats somewhat if the party were actually invested in making it happenā —another very large “if”—but analyst David Shor has estimated that a slight bias toward Republicans would remain in the Senate even if Democrats added six states, including the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. If Biden attempts to circumvent Republicans through executive action as Obama did, Republicans can take solace in the fact that much of what he might try could be undone by another administration or, again, gummed up in court.

Even though American law has a well-documented liberal bias (as does reality), the founders of our country designed a system of government intended to thwart popular will. And right now, the populace really want a change. Tant pis.

Another record

No, not about The Daily Parker (though I'm hoping to keep extending the record I set yesterday). I mean Lake Michigan:

The Lake Michigan-Huron system ended July at 177.5 m MSL, averaging just below that for the month, and setting a monthly-average record for seven consecutive months. The normal (technically, the "chart datum") water level is 176.0 m, and the previous record for July was 5 cm lower.

The US Army Corps of Engineers predicts the lake will drop 5-10 cm by September 1st, which could still keep it above record levels for another month.

Lunchtime reading

It has cooled off slightly from yesterday's scorching 36°C, but the dewpoint hasn't dropped much. So the sauna yesterday has become the sticky summer day today. Fortunately, we invented air conditioning a century or so ago, so I'm not actually melting in my cube.

As I munch on some chicken teriyaki from the take-out place around the corner, I'm also digesting these articles:

Can you believe we're only 99 days from the election? How time flies.

Somebody call "lunch!"

Stuff to read:

Finally, last June, Jennifer Giesbrecht wrote that "Babylon 5 is the greatest, most terrible SF series." She's mostly right.

Then and now, Lawrence and Broadway (revisited)

I originally posted the top photo a couple of weeks ago, before I found the legal loophole allowing me to take my drone above 120 m AGL. (It turns out I can take it 120 m above the tallest structure within 120 m.) So early this morning, in calm winds, I took it up to 150 m, almost exactly matching the view. If only my drone had a slightly longer lens, I could duplicate it exactly. At least I got the parallax right, meaning I now know the original photo was taken only 150 m up. It would not be legal for a fixed-wing airplane to fly so low today; you'd need a helicopter and permission.

Here's 1933:

And 2020:

I also plan to re-shoot a bunch of these after the trees lose their leaves this fall.

Then and Now, Morse/Glenwood

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago annual benefit will take place at 7pm on Friday July 17th. We have to do it online, of course, but the original plan had us at Mayne Stage on April 4th. I had to go up there tonight to take some publicity photos, and I remembered I took this photo in April 1993:

Here's the same scene two hours ago:

Mayne Stage is on the left, in the space that apparently used to be the Cobbler's Mall behind the Poolgogi Steak House.

The neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the last 27 years, though the ethnic diversity still remains. Obviously there are a few new buildings, and the garish signs have come down from the liquor store and Morse Gyros take-out. (Both are still there.) And the Lunt Bus still stops at the Morse El, just as it did when my father was a kid.

Water, water, everywhere, and all is safe to drink

The Midwest has an embarrassment of riches right now as the Lake Michigan-Huron system enters its sixth straight month of record water levels, a mere 12 cm below its all-time high:

The lake is nearly 3 feet higher than usual for early summer and approaching the historical high, set in October 1986, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the official records for all of the Great Lakes.

As Chicagoans return to the lakefront and the 18-mile Lakefront Trail, which officially reopens in most areas Monday, they will notice waves lapping onto flooded pathways, disappearing beaches, submerged breakwaters and stone revetments unable to hold back the pulsating water.

“If people haven’t been back to the beach or their favorite spot in a while, it may be very different with erosion or a lot less beach,” said John Allis, the Army Corps’ chief of the Great Lakes hydraulics and hydrology office, based out of the Detroit District. “Conditions can be very different on the coastline than people may be used to in the past.”

The high water levels can be seen up and down Chicago’s shoreline. Near Belmont Harbor, the path for walkers and joggers that skirts the inner part of the harbor was partially covered with water on Monday. Runners dodged water or splashed gingerly on their way. Nearby, a section of the trail was blocked with barricades and a bright yellow warning sign: “Caution Undermining Erosion.”

The Belmont Harbor Dog Beach was almost entirely submerged, with only a small spit of sand available for dogs and their owners. “It’s gone,” one woman mentioned to her companion as they walked past, “It’s underwater.”

Scientists say a confluence of factors has contributed to the high water: recent record precipitation complete with drenching downpours, milder winters and warming overall temperatures throughout the Midwest.

Heavy rains in the spring and summer of 2019 raised lake levels, setting the table for the record highs of 2020.

Warmer temperatures mean fewer blasts of cold air, less ice cover and less-than-normal evaporation since cool surface water is a driver of evaporation, said Lauren Fry, a physical scientist with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

“Climate factors,” Fry said, “are the primary drivers of water levels.”

The Lake Michigan-Huron system is already the largest freshwater lake in the world, with an area of 117,400 km² and the largest source of fresh water in the hemisphere. It also used to be a lot bigger: only 8,000 years ago, the lake came all the way up to Clark Street, before the ice dam holding it back gave way in what must have been one of the most spectacular hydrologic events in the planet's history. (If I ever get a time machine, that's one of the things I want to see. That, and the moment the Atlantic Ocean breached the Strait of Gibraltar, creating an epic flow of water that may have filled up the Mediterranean Basin in only two years.)

Then and Now, Lawrence and Broadway

Now that I have a drone, I've been looking for historical aerial photos of Chicago. I found this 1933 photo of Uptown through the Chicago Public Library collection:

Here's approximately the same view about an hour ago:

Some things immediately jump out. First, the trees. My how they've grown! Second, in the distance you can see the construction of Montrose Harbor in 1933 and the completed harbor (by 1937) in 2020. Third, we have a lot more parking lots and a lot less grime on our buildings these days. And what the hell is that huge industrial building billowing smoke at the corner of Montrose and Clarendon (upper-right corner of 1933)?

Since drones can only legally fly 120 m above the ground in the US, I couldn't get exactly the same angle as in the original photo. My best guess from a number of clues is that the top photo was taken from an airplane flying about 250 m (maybe not even that high) AGL shortly after 1pm on a sunny but hazy early-April afternoon. The air quality in Chicago in 2020 is so much better than at any point in the 20th century that almost no aerial photos from that era will have light as sharp and clear as we get today.

I have a couple more of these up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Another perfect night to fly

The Mini has a service ceiling of 120 m AGL (above ground level) by default. I can jump through some hoops to increase that, but for now, while I'm getting to know how the aircraft handles, that seems just fine.

For example, here are two shots from 110 m half an hour after sunset:

The second one is a dry-run for a before-and-after pair I really can't wait to share. I just want to say, I hope I'm giving historians of the future some good data.

Why didn't I get one of these things years ago?