The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The Endorsement

It's official:

I mean, we all knew this was coming, especially after Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden yesterday. Because, I mean, he had to. Lookit:

And finally, despite my grocery bill, I'm going to take a look at these upside-down drink recipes to preserve my liver through the crisis.

The guy who stood up to Trump

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Dr Anthony Fauci, while never rude nor inappropriate, nevertheless persists in not letting the president get away with bullshit about Covid-19. James Fallows has some thoughts about why:

Anthony fauci is different from any other prominent official Donald Trump has dealt with in his time as president. The difference is that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is not afraid. To put it in terms Trump might recognize: What the hell does he have to lose?

This reality does not make it possible to predict what Trump will do with Fauci—fire him, ignore him, give him buddylike Hey, we see things differently respect, or something else. Nothing about Trump is predictable, except his reduction of all discourse to the two themes of his own greatness and the unfairness of his critics.

Anyone behaves differently in the presence of any president. People who say that is not true have not had the experience themselves. But Anthony Fauci has dealt with a lot of presidents before Trump.

Fauci is a sophisticated bureaucratic officer, and he knows how to “tell them exactly what’s the truth” as tactfully as he can. In his repeated press-briefing “corrections” of Trump’s fantasies and misstatements, Fauci has made it sound as if he is saying, “Yes, and …” rather than “No, that’s nuts.” His occasional face-palm moments while Trump is riffing are little glimpses of indiscipline while not at the microphone. Onstage he is honest and polite.

Fauci is offering an unusually clear lesson to all others who have submitted to Trump: This is how it looks when you’re not afraid.

Exactly. Intelligence, integrity, and nothing to lose, plus a healthy understanding of how the president has destroyed the reputations (or worse) of everyone who has worked for him, have given Dr Fauci the cojones to let all of Trump's crazy roll off him. I wish more Republicans had those.

What could possibly go wrong?

We all know President Trump's pathologies pretty well by now. Between the malignant narcissism and his natural distrust for anyone who knows more than he does on a particular subject, plus his well-documented habit of believing things he wants to believe instead of the black-and-white reality right in front of him, it doesn't take an Oliver Sacks to guess how he has reacted to everyone telling him he can't simply restart the economy on May 1st. And, sadly, he does not disappoint:

Over the weekend, the president said he would weigh multiple factors to arrive at the "toughest" decision of his administration to date. Trump signaled that he has consulted his top health professionals, business leaders and others whom he described as "smart people" in recent days. The ultimate call "will be based on a lot of facts and instincts," he said. In a Fox News phone interview Saturday, Trump said he would come to a conclusion "fairly soon."

But Trump seemed to telegraph his eagerness to restart much of the U.S. in a tweet Sunday evening, urging governors to perfect their testing abilities and to "be ready, big things are happening. No excuses!"

Trump has said he would like to reopen the country with a "big bang."

The motivation to restart the economy — even piecemeal — sooner rather than later may be based on a political calculation by the president that he needs to demonstrate that things are "on the upswing."

Naturally, Dr Anthony Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has become the de facto spokesperson for the government on the realities of the pandemic, has drawn the president's ire, given the inevitability he would have to contradict the most prolific liar in US history. Greg Sargent:

As part of this latest exercise in blame-shifting, Trump has taken his first public shot at Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and his own administration’s leading medical expert. Trump angrily retweeted a call for Fauci’s firing, while again hailing his own early restrictions on travel from China and furiously bashing the media for failing to recognize that decision’s foresight and brilliance.

As for reopening the economy, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden published his plan yesterday:

First, we have to get the number of new cases of the disease down significantly. That means social distancing has to continue and the people on the front lines have to get the supplies and equipment they need. President Trump needs to use his full powers under the Defense Production Act to fight the disease with every tool at our disposal. He needs to get the federal response organized and stop making excuses. For more Americans to go back to their jobs, the president needs to do better at his job.

Second, there needs to be widespread, easily available and prompt testing — and a contact tracing strategy that protects privacy. A recent report from Mr. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services made clear that we are far from achieving this goal.

Third, we have to make sure that our hospitals and health care system are ready for flare-ups of the disease that may occur when economic activity expands again. Reopening the right way will still not be completely safe. Public health officials will need to conduct effective disease surveillance. Hospitals need to have the staff and equipment necessary to handle any local outbreaks, and we need an improved federal system to get help to these places as needed.

Imagine if the incumbent president had a plan—any plan—other than "May 1st." Because if we simply go back to pre-pandemic norms then, it will indeed be a May Day situation.

How shelter-in-place has affected sleep

Fitbit reported earlier this month that, following shelter-in-place orders, people go to sleep later but sleep more:

Based on our review of aggregated and anonymized data, we saw that in locations with shelter-in-place mandates, bedtime and bedtime consistency shifted. 

For the most part, people are going to bed later but getting more sleep, as well as more quality rest. For those whose quality of sleep has improved, they have been spending more time in deep and REM sleep.

Even though sleep duration has been longer, it is still important to maintain bedtime consistency for many health reasons. While going to bed later and waking up later makes sense for now, it will be important to try to keep up that consistency even when our schedules change.

According to my Fitbit, I've increased my average night's sleep by 4 minutes and got to sleep an average of 9 minutes later between Decemeber and the last 30 days. My "sleep score" (a proprietary Fitbit metric that ranges from 0 to 100) also went up an average of 4 points also. I'm actually trying to increase my average night's sleep by another 10 minutes, but it's harder than it seems.

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:

The president's assault on the military

Retired US Army Colonel Jeff McCausland rings an alarm about the president's politicization of our apolitical armed forces:

Officers are taught from the beginning of their military careers that the profession is apolitical. The oath they swear is not to the president, despite the fact that he is the commander-in-chief. Rather it is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” This forms the basis of civil-military relations, and it has served America well for over two centuries. It is likely that few Americans realize the United States is only one of handful of countries that has never experienced a serious military threat to civil authority.

Not coincidentally, the nation’s Founding Fathers were very suspect of the military. They viewed it as a threat to civil authority and the democracy they were attempting to create. Consequently, throughout most of our history the standing military remained relatively small. At the onset of World War II, the U.S. military was the 19th largest force on the planet — smaller than Portugal. But in that conflict’s aftermath, American political leaders accepted both global leadership and the associated responsibilities that required a large standing military force.

Is it not likely that during this moment of national crisis an erratic president, concerned by his sinking popularity, might be tempted to further politicize the military to support his re-election? Could this result in his exporting the national political divisions that have sustained him to the military? Could the leadership climate that resulted in the USS Roosevelt fiasco reach a point where the espoused political affiliation of not only civilian leaders, but also military officers, have more to do with his or her advancement than their ability? Sadly, this is not just the story of a political appointee who allowed his ambition to override his good judgment. Rather it is a warning about a growing threat to a foundation of American democracy.

I've said similar things, as have every military officer I've ever spoken with on the subject. Let's keep our armed forces out of politics, mm kay?

Because life wasn't interesting enough right now

Two forest fires near Vladimirovka, Ukraine, have caused radiation levels in the region to spike:

A fire covering around 20 hectares broke out on Saturday afternoon near the village of Vladimirovka, within the uninhabited Chernobyl exclusion zone, and responders were still fighting two blazes on Monday morning, Ukrainian emergency services said in a statement.

"There is bad news -- in the center of the fire, radiation is above normal," Egor Firsov, head of Ukraine's ecological inspection service, wrote in a Facebook post alongside a video of a Geiger counter. "As you can see in the video, the readings of the device are 2.3, when the norm is 0.14. But this is only within the area of the fire outbreak."

His measurements refer to the microsievert per hour (μSv/h) reading; the maximum allowable amount of natural background radiation is 0.5 μSv/h, the emergency services said, but Firsov's reported amount was nearly five times that.

Vladimirovka sits within the deserted 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone, which was evacuated after the devastating 1986 blast at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant that sent radioactive fallout billowing across Europe and exposed millions to dangerous levels of radiation.

The region has since been taken over by nature, and forest fires are not uncommon.

While researching this post, I discovered that Google has Street View photos of Pripyat and Chernobyl. How did they get permission to do that?

How does this end?

Writing for Vox, Ezra Klein looks at three major plans for re-starting the economy, and how difficult they would actually be to implement:

There’s one from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer.

In different ways, all these plans say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the US either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness.

All of them then imagine a phase two, which relaxes — but does not end — social distancing while implementing testing and surveillance on a mass scale. This is where you must begin imagining the almost unimaginable.

The CAP and Harvard plans both foresee a digital pandemic surveillance state in which virtually every American downloads an app to their phone that geotracks their movements, so if they come into contact with anyone who later is found to have Covid-19, they can be alerted and a period of social quarantine can begin.

The AEI proposal is the closest thing to a middle path between these plans. It’s more testing, but nothing approaching Romer’s hopes. It’s more contact tracing, but it doesn’t envision an IT-driven panopticon. But precisely for that reason, what it’s really describing is a yo-yo between extreme lockdown and lighter forms of social distancing, continuing until a vaccine is reached.

This, too, requires some imagination. Will governors who’ve finally, at great effort, reopened parts of their economies really keep throwing them back into lockdown every time ICUs begin to fill? Will Trump have the stomach to push the country back into quarantine after he’s lifted social distancing guidelines? What if unemployment is 17 percent, and his approval rating is at 38 percent?

For the time being, we'll stay in our homes and away from other people as much as we can. But wow, even for me, an introvert with a dedicated home office, it's very trying.

And how long will it go on? A while. National Geographic says a vaccine may take a lot longer than a year.

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.