The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Illinois vs Florida

Writing in the Independent UK, Chicago-based Noah Berlatsky argues that state leadership has made Illinois a lot better off than, say, Florida:

Illinois' achievement is both a model and an accusation. It points a way forward for other states. It also shows that the disaster facing the country now was thoroughly preventable.

State officials in Illinois have managed to contain the virus by acting early, aggressively, and imaginatively. In mid-March, with only about 100 cases in the state, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot cancelled the annual St Patrick's Day Parade, and Governor J B Pritzker closed schools. He delivered a shelter-in-place order on March 20.

At the same time, before the the caseload had reached crisis levels, Pritzker brought in proactive measures to increase healthcare capacity. He called retired doctors and nurses to return to work. He also ordered McCormick Place convention center to be converted into a 3,000-bed field hospital — a step that proved unnecessary, but which shows how seriously he took the crisis. The state worked ceaselessly to increase testing, and by early June had enough capacity that anyone in the state concerned about their Covid status could get a test. From less than 10,000 tests a day in April, the state now tests almost 40,000 people daily.

Pritzker's aggressive, multi-pronged efforts to promote masking, social isolation, testing, and healthcare capacity stands in sharp contrast to the actions of governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis. In March, while Pritzker was closing schools and businesses, DeSantis left stay-at-home orders to local authorities, despite a rapidly rising caseload. Since then he's consistently downplayed dangers from the virus, even as cases have spiked over the last week. Disney World is reopening, just as many hospital report they have already run out of ICU beds. And deaths are slowly but ominously creeping up. Florida hit a one-day record high of 120 deaths from Covid on July 9.

Still, Pritzker has shown how much can be done statewide despite Trump's malevolent incompetence. Illinois has not done everything perfectly. But there's no doubt Pritzker has saved hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives. He's largely done the right thing for his constituents. In the coming weeks, I fear we'll see how badly DeSantis and other governors have failed theirs.

We're not perfect, though. Yesterday, while walking the 10 blocks down Clark Street from Addison to Surf, I counted 37 total zeros not wearing masks, 3 half-wits whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses, and 34 good citizens with full mouth and nose coverings. So we have some work to do.

A bit of news overload today

Happy tax day! And now, we're off to the races:

Finally, Bloomberg takes a backward glance at the rise and fall of the Segway.

Who could have predicted this?

Yesterday, Florida reported 15,300 new cases of Covid-19, handily breaking the one-day record for new cases we set waaaay back in early April. We've now passed 70,000 new cases nationally in one day (another record), and 230,370 new cases worldwide (another record). We could lose control of this situation completely any day now--as Florida already has.

And yet, " 'There was no justification to not move forward' with the state's reopening in May, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday, according to NBC Miami."

Yes, folks, Ron DeSantis is that stupid. In fact, new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that lower cognitive ability correlates with lower compliance with social-distancing and other mitigation strategies.

Meanwhile, even as Illinois set a record for the number of tests administered in a day, while our new cases per day hovers around 1,000, other parts of the country continue to experience testing shortages and delays getting results.

And why is this happening? President Donald J. Trump takes the lead in his stupid, craven, and psychopathic failure to do anything remotely useful to stop the spread of this virus. This graph circulating around social media illustrates the problem:

We were close. We had stopped the spread, and even reversed it. Then our idiot president and a few sycophantic Republican governors reversed our progress.

Just look at that graph. Look at it. If that doesn't enrage you, then please get your head out of your rectum.

November 3rd is 113 days away.

"Unprecedented, historic corruption"

The pardon power granted in Article II of the Constitution exists so that the President can save people from true miscarriages of justice. Well, originally, anyway. Now it exists to save President Trump's friends from their own misdeeds, as demonstrated once again last night:

President Trump has said he learned lessons from President Richard M. Nixon’s fall from grace, but in using the power of his office to keep his friend and adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. out of prison he has now crossed a line that even Mr. Nixon in the depths of Watergate dared not cross.

For months, some of Mr. Trump’s senior White House advisers warned him that it would be politically self-destructive if not ethically inappropriate to use his clemency power to help Mr. Stone, who was convicted of lying to protect the president. But in casting aside their counsel on Friday, Mr. Trump indulged his own sense of grievance over precedent and restraint to reward an ally for his silence.

Democrats immediately condemned the commutation of Mr. Stone’s 40-month prison term and vowed to investigate, just as Mr. Trump’s advisers had predicted they would. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the move an act of “staggering corruption,” said she would pursue legislation to prevent the president from using his power to protect those convicted of a cover-up on his own behalf, although that would face serious constitutional hurdles and presumably would never be signed into law by Mr. Trump.

Utah US Senator Mitt Romney (R) condemned the action immediately:

So did just about everyone else except other Congressional Republicans:

The list goes on. All of them seem to agree with Max Boot: "the worst president ever keeps getting worse."

Let's recall what Roger Stone did: he acted as an interlocutor between the Trump 2016 Campaign and the Russian intelligence services to help get Trump elected, and then lied in court about this to protect his boss. (Fun fact: it's not illegal to work with an adversarial intelligence service openly. The crime here was providing foreign aid to an election campaign.) Some might call that pattern of behavior treason. Some certainly would if the perpetrator were a Democrat, or if the president were one. But not the modern Republican party.

As Roger Cohen wrote yesterday, we're going into "the most dangerous phase of Trump's rule," and we're still 115 days from the election.

The right-wing science counter-revolution

Writing for New Republic, Ari Shulman presents a nuanced and well-thought analysis of the apparent right-wing hostility to science. It's not science per se they object to; rather, they object to what they perceive to be left-wing science:

The panel of experts that Covid skeptics have arrayed provides a case in point. Where mainstream opinion quickly converged on flattening the curve, Boris Johnson sang the praises of a herd immunity strategy, an idea that continues to hold sway among many skeptics in the United States. The Trumpian right’s treatment of masks as a symbol of tyranny claimed to garner credence from public health authority, as journalist Alex Berenson cited the initial divided view on the mask question as a telling lack of evidence. Likewise, where polite opinion early in the pandemic had held that the virus isn’t as bad as flu, Trumpian skeptics echoed that refrain as all-but-proven science, just as they’ve also sought to downplay the pandemic’s high fatality rate, theorizing vast numbers of undetected, asymptomatic cases—which would mean that society is already close to acquiring herd immunity.

Each of these views was backed by elaborate interpretations of the evidence, and propounded by a cadre of scientists and self-appointed epidemiologists. And these figures, in turn, gained rapid celebrity on the right as brave truth-tellers to a hysterical orthodoxy.

It is tempting for anyone who’s tried to adapt to the shifting expert consensus on Covid-19 to defend, at least in broad strokes, the “Republican war on science” narrative by arguing that the emerging cohort of counter-experts on the right are simply cranks. But most of these figures are genuine experts, albeit not all in the fields on which they opine. More to the point, they all adeptly borrow from the methodologies and rationalist rhetoric of scientific inquiry.

The product of these dynamics has not been, as we are often told, a Republican rejection of science itself—of its methodologies, its hunger for knowledge of the world, its desire for mastery over nature, its admiration for the excellence on display in rational inquiry. Rather, it has been the adoption of an outsider’s stance to the current scientific establishment—to its particular institutions, and to the pronouncements of its expert class.

In these corrosive, shallow, interminable debates about science, what is most sorely missing is any talk of judgment. It is impossible to understand how experts arrive at their advice, or how leaders use it wisely, apart from the exercise of judgment. Though we might think this point is obvious, it is belied by the common image of science as a neutral, even godlike encounter with eternal, capital-T Truth.

The whole essay is worth the time.

Thanks, imbeciles

Because Covid-19 infections have started to climb again after just a few weeks of slowly dropping, the worst-affected states (coincidentally those with Republican governors who really, really wanted to re-open the economy) have had to slam on the brakes again.

John Scalzi is pissed:

Nearly every other Western country in the world has seen their infection rates drop down from the March/April time frame, but we haven’t, and now our leaders want to suggest that this is just the way it is and we’ll have to “live with it.” In fact, it’s not the way it is, or at least, wasn’t what it had to be. The reason we’re in this mess is that the GOP followed Trump’s lead in deciding this was a political issue instead of a health and science issue, and radicalized its base against dead simple measures like wearing masks and other such practices, and against waiting until infection rates dropped sufficiently to try to open up businesses again, because apparently they thought capitalism was magic and would work without reasonably fit humans.

It also means that all that time we spent in quarantine in March, April and May was effectively for nothing, and that if we want to actually get hold of this thing we’ll have to go back in quarantine again, at least through September and possibly for all of the rest of 2020.

We could have managed this thing — like nearly every other country has — if we had political leadership that wasn’t inept and happy to use the greatest public health crisis in decades as political leverage for… well, who knows? Most of the areas being hit hardest now — places like Florida, Arizona, and Texas — are deep red states; there is no political advantage to be had by having them hit by infection and death and economic uncertainty four months before a national election. The fact that Joe Biden is currently in a statistical tie with Trump in Texas voter polls should terrify the GOP. I don’t expect Biden to get Texas’ electoral votes in November, but honestly it shouldn’t even be this close now. And the thing is, things are almost certainly going to get worse in Texas before they get better.

Every vote for President Trump in November is a vote for this abject stupidity.

Happy Monday!

Need another reason to vote for Biden? Slower news cycles. Because just this morning we've had these:

So, you know, nothing too interesting.

What if the NTSB investigated our pandemic response?

Private pilot and journalist Jim Fallows suggests an answer:

Consider a thought experiment: What if the NTSB were brought in to look at the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic? What would its investigation conclude? I’ll jump to the answer before laying out the background: This was a journey straight into a mountainside, with countless missed opportunities to turn away. A system was in place to save lives and contain disaster. The people in charge of the system could not be bothered to avoid the doomed course.

The organization below differs from that of a standard NTSB report, but it covers the key points. Timelines of aviation disasters typically start long before the passengers or even the flight crew knew anything was wrong, with problems in the design of the airplane, the procedures of the maintenance crew, the route, or the conditions into which the captain decided to fly. In the worst cases, those decisions doomed the flight even before it took off. My focus here is similarly on conditions and decisions that may have doomed the country even before the first COVID-19 death had been recorded on U.S. soil.

What happened once the disease began spreading in this country was a federal disaster in its own right: Katrina on a national scale, Chernobyl minus the radiation. It involved the failure to test; the failure to trace; the shortage of equipment; the dismissal of masks; the silencing or sidelining of professional scientists; the stream of conflicting, misleading, callous, and recklessly ignorant statements by those who did speak on the national government’s behalf. As late as February 26, Donald Trump notoriously said of the infection rate, “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero.” What happened after that—when those 15 cases became 15,000, and then more than 2 million, en route to a total no one can foretell—will be a central part of the history of our times.

But what happened in the two months before Trump’s statement, when the United States still had a chance of containing the disease where it started or at least buffering its effects, is if anything worse.

How 40% of the voting public can still support this administration baffles me.

In the real world, these would both be career-ending gaffes

This morning, President Trump re-Tweeted a racist video that included a supporter yelling "white power," thanking the elderly Florida gentleman in question for his support. Even though that would end most other presidencies right there, it turns out that this weekend has seen even worse behavior throughout his administration:

Five months after the novel coronavirus was first detected in the United States, a record surge in new cases is the clearest sign yet of the country’s historic failure to control the virus — exposing a crisis in governance extending from the Oval Office to state capitals to city councils.

President Trump — who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, sidelined experts and misled Americans about its dangers and potential cures — now finds his presidency wracked by an inability to shepherd the country through its worst public health calamity in a century. The dysfunction that has long characterized Trump’s White House has been particularly ill-suited for a viral outbreak that requires precision, focus and steady leadership, according to public health experts, administration officials and lawmakers from both parties.

A similarly garbled message for the country has also been put forward by the president’s top aides and other senior administration officials, who contradict one another on a daily basis. On Friday, Vice President Pence used the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in almost two months to praise Trump’s handling of the virus and cast aside concerns about a record spike in new infections.

“We have made a truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” Pence said, a few minutes after announcing that more than 2.5 million Americans had contracted the coronavirus. “We’ve all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again.”

Later Friday, the United States recorded more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases — its largest one-day total.

As one political scientist observed, "We're the only country in the world that has politicized the approach to a pandemic."

We need to get rid of these clowns on November 3rd.

Phase 4? Uh...yay?

Illinois officially moved into Phase 4 of Covid-19 recovery this week, just as two states retreated from it abruptly:

As cases rise around the United States, Florida reported more than 8,900 new coronavirus cases on Friday, after counting more than 10,000 new cases over the previous two days, pushing its total past 120,000.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has said that Florida has the capacity to deal with more sick people for now. Across the state, long lines have returned at testing sites that just a few weeks ago were seeing limited demand. On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis said that he did not intend to move to the next phase of reopening.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas went a step further than Florida, ordering all bars to close on Friday and telling restaurants to reduce operating capacity. It was an abrupt reversal of his previous policy as the nation’s second largest state also grapples with surging coronavirus cases weeks after reopening.

(It's worth noting that in every state that has rising numbers except for California, they have Republican governors.)

Still, though restaurants in Illinois can re-open at 25% capacity, many chefs have refused:

At Elizabeth restaurant, for example, owner Iliana Regan is sticking to take-out only. “If you’ve been here, you know how tiny we are; we only seat 25 people,” Regan said in an email to customers. “So, running at 25% capacity is not economically viable for us. More importantly, though, we don’t feel it’s safe for us to reopen for indoor service. We feel that the risk to our staff and guests is far too great to resume service right now.”

Similarly, Scott Worsham, who with Sari Zernich Worsham owns Bar Biscay and mfk restaurants, is in no hurry to open his dining rooms.

“We are waiting it out because it’s just not safe enough for our employees,” he said. “You saw what happened at Longman & Eagle this last week.” (Longman & Eagle abruptly ended outdoor dining service after one employee tested positive for COVID-19.) “For us to open, at such low numbers, then to have to close again for two weeks, would be a death blow for us.”

The Atlantic looks at Covid-19 safety in detail, and says maybe they have a point:

Ideally, individual people shouldn’t have to determine whether the restrictions in their area are safe and sensible. But here we are: Many states’ reopening plans don’t even meet the standards laid out in guidelines from the White House.

This means that in many cases, you’ll have to try to make an informed decision about what’s safest for you and others. [Linsey Marr, a civil- and environmental-engineering professor at Virginia Tech] laid out the basic calculus: “It depends on your own health, your age, preexisting conditions, how much risk you’re willing to tolerate, and the benefit that the activity could provide to you.” Another crucial variable: how much risk you might be introducing for everyone else around you.

So...basically...let's wait until we have a vaccine before going out again, yes?

Meanwhile, the only president we have until next January has cut funding for Covid-19 research and asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA, all this week.