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20.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Happy anniversary Permalink to this item

Mrs. Betty Bowers ("America's Best Christian") is on a roll, in general, but this, for our present celebration:

What more fitting commemoration of the Trump administration's one year anniversary could there be than the whole government shutting down through complete incompetence?😂

— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) January 20, 2018

In last night's slo-mo cliffhanger, we had no less than Mitch McConnell decrying "a cynical decision," if you can believe it. For the sake of "irresponsible political gains," no less.

This is a man who knows from cynical decisions for irresponsible political gains. As he blames the Democrats for using the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for bargaining leverage. That would be the program that the GOP-controlled Congress and White House have failed to renew funding for, for three-and-a-half months now.

"I don't think it makes the institution look very responsible," he added.

And after Chuck and Don were so close to a deal over cheeseburgers yesterday. What E.J. Dionne said:

"The pattern that led to the shutdown is clear--right to the last minute. Dems come up with compromises that Trump could buy. He says yes. Then hardline aides tell him no. So Trump flip-flops & says no. Then he retreats to nativism and partisanship."

You can't trust anything Art of the Deal tells you. He takes negotiating in bad faith to new depths.

And everybody in the foggy bottom swamp retreats to their respective microphones. With the House done early with a RWNJ-flavored poison pill the Senate was sure to reject, Idaho's junior Congressman and governor-wannabe Raúl Labrador had time to gleefully splutter about his next appearance on state media:

Looking forward to being on @FoxNews @TuckerCarlson at 6:30 pm MT. I'll be talking about the possible government shutdown, and how the Democrats want to shut down the government over #immigration. Hope you can tune in! #SchumerShutdown

— Raúl R. Labrador (@Raul_Labrador) January 20, 2018

That just after he'd appeared on Laura Ingraham's show to pump up THE MEMO that the Republican chairman Devin Nunes and his staffers on the House Intelligence Committee wrote trying to discredit Robert Mueller's investigation, because, apparently, the Russian twitter bot campaign wasn't getting the job done.

So many stories colliding at once, the whole fake MEMO thing ended up lost in the swamp ooze around the #TrumpShutdown. (It's the biggest, believe me. Top trending hashtag WORLDWIDE.)

Let's just say THE MEMO is undoubtedly more useful as a teaser for the next episode than it would be in the light of day:

A source with knowledge of the memo told Business Insider that it was "a level of irresponsible stupidity that I cannot fathom," adding that it "purposefully misconstrues facts and leaves out important details."

18.Jan.18 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something there is that does not love a wall Permalink to this item

Pardon the incredulity, but given the president's recent performance as a dumb weather vane ("I'll sign anything you all put in front of me," was it?), I'm a bit skeptical of the durability of his Chief of Staff's having "educated" the president, who has now "evolved" on the wall.

I'm not calling it fake news, I'm just saying Mr. Tee is at least as fickle in policy as he is in sexual partners. Ah, there it is, in the third paragraph:

"But President Trump directly contradicted the chief of staff on Thursday, saying his position on building the wall had not “evolved.”

"In an early-morning Twitter post, Mr. Trump said, “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.” He added in a second tweet, “The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.”

Is the NY Times trying to undercut Kelly? Or is he trying to undercut himself? In the current game of 3D checkers, the most important thing seems to be that everything must be the president's idea, no matter who is whispering it into his ear.

Tom von Alten 2003 photo

And the now-usual follow-up to candor of any sort, GOP members with memory loss.

Marc T. Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, denied the Democrats’ characterization of Mr. Kelly’s comments about the president’s familiarity with immigration issues, telling CNN in an interview: “I don’t recall General Kelly saying the president was uninformed.”

That doesn't quite rise to a "denial," it's just another unreliable witness. He might have dozed off. Anyway, whether it's going to be 30 feet high, or 50 feet, sea to shining gulf, or interrupted by "vicious rivers" and mountains, the question before Congress is, how many lives have to be ruined to provide tens of $billions to satisfy the president's need for a monument to his stupidity? (While you contemplate that question, enjoy this year-ago scenic feature from CNN, What the US-Mexico border looks like before Trump's wall.)

While we're on the topic of economic imbalance, the original Wall builders have a five times larger trade surplus with the US. Shouldn't we get them to pay for a wall across the Pacific Ocean?

17.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Steering users to healthier interactions Permalink to this item

Reading about this year as a possible "inflection point" on the morality graph (who knew we were graphing that?) and Mark Zuckerberg's expressed "responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being," I got an idea for a Facebook app, which I'll just throw out to any interested party, in case no one has done it already. Call it what you like, but I'll suggest Time's up!

The user can specify how many minutes, or hours s/he wants to spend on Facebook in a given day (or week, etc.) and the app keeps track, and when you hit your quota, you're blocked for the rest of the term.

Remember when it was a vague mystery how in the world Facebook could make money if they didn't charge anyone to use it? They figured that out: says there, the company reported $4.7 billion in profits in Q3, says there. Nice to have them concerned about our well-being, too.

Time magazine (what else?) did offer a shaming route, 4 years ago, and close to Facebook's 10th birthday: How Much Time Have You Wasted on Facebook? (Sorry, says "due to a change in the Facebook data stream, this interactive no longer works for all users.")

Update: Farhad Manjoo thinks It’s Time for Apple to Build a Less Addictive iPhone, too.

16.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Season I coming to a close Permalink to this item

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Here's a surprisingly believable statement from the President of the United States:

“I don’t know what the word ‘permanent’ means.”

(Also, object permanence, what's up with that?) That was in the Wall Street Journal interview last week, responding to the question of whether POTUS' break with Steve Bannon was "permanent." As seen in today's news, Guess Who's Coming To Testify.

Dunno if we've made any progress in draining the foggy bottom swamp, but there sure are a lot of laywers running around these days.

"Mr. Bannon has hired William A. Burck of the Washington office of the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm to represent him in the defamation threats from Mr. Trump and the congressional inquiries. Mr. Burck also represents several current and former administration officials who have been interviewed as witnesses by Mr. Mueller’s investigators. Among them are the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and the former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus."

Downtown Boise, in the rain

Meanwhile, in the debris left from a functioning federal government, there's considerable talk of the can being kicked down the road (3½ months into FY2018 without an actual budget for the whole year) dropping into the "shutdown" manhole, with perfectly scripted timing, midnight, January 19th. That's what Margaret Hartmann's NY mag Daily Intelligencer "Everything you need to know" said, but midnight is tricky. Is that... the end of the 19th, or the beginning?

Here, someone has obtained the domain to help us keep track. Their Jan. 2 blog post quoted somebody's 60% odds for "11:59 pm on January 19, 2018." That's the time that "midnight, January 19" brings to mind, isn't it? Even though it's a minute shy of a whole day later. So, midnight on January 20th, 00:00 (Eastern Time, I guess), the government will be shut down (unless X, Y and Z), which would make the most fitting celebration imaginable for the one-year anniversary of Inauguration Day, 2017.

PredictIt's price for the question "Will the federal government be shut down on January 22?" is a bit lower. 34¢ at last check, so just under two-thirds of the bettors think not. The end date for the gamble is made explicit, 01/22/2018 11:59 PM (ET), which is to say "at the end of the day." (So... it could shut down on the 20th, and be re-opened before the closing bell on the bet.)

If you don't like the persistent uncertainty in D.C., you can appreciate this summary of the rules: "PredictIt’s decisions and determinations under this rule shall be at PredictIt’s sole discretion and shall be final." You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Martin Luther King Day, 2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The moral crossroad Permalink to this item

He's the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect, among other things, so forgive us on this federal holiday for not accepting his protestation that he's not a racist as keen self-assessment, while he arrives for yet another taxpayer-funded weekend and business boost to his Mal-a-lago resort in Florida. (Spot check: what percentage of the freeloading guests are white? And what percentage of the waitstaff are people of color?)

Not to belabor the obvious, but Charles Blow: Trump Is a Racist. Period. Complete with the formerly unprintable obscenity, now part of the URL. And the definitive list of Trump's racism, going back to the 1970s, from David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick.

The question of the day is not about him, but about us: Will America Choose King’s Dream or Trump’s Nightmare?

"We desperately need each other at this moment of moral crisis and malicious racist divisiveness. Will we raise our collective voices against Mr. Trump’s white racism and those who make excuses for it or submit and thereby self-destructively kill any chance of fully becoming our better selves? Dr. King also warned us that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” To honor Dr. King, we must not remain silent, we must not betray his legacy."

NoMoGoPro? Permalink to this item

Hard to imagine a world without ubiquitous footage from helmet-mounted (and what-not-mounted) cameras capable of surviving all manner of environmental extremities. But then back when Comdex was a thing, some of us in the computer world couldn't imagine that going away. It did.

From Farhad Manjoo's downbeat report of this week in tech, it sounds like CES might be tailing toward oblivion, too. Consumer Electronics running out of gas? How could that be? But right there in the headline, "Power Outage." Which would have put a kink in the experience of more than 4,000 exhibitors sprawling over 2.6 million square feet. Maybe they were trying to process too many BitCoin transactions at once. Anyway, this seems a little sad:

"As I’ve been saying for a while now, traditional “gadgets” seem to be dying. We saw more evidence of that trend this week when GoPro, the extreme-camera company, lowered its revenue forecast, shut down its effort to build a drone, laid off 20 percent of its staff and said it would be open to a sale."

And it goes downhill from there: last Monday, Twitter said the tweets of world leaders got special deference from the company; world leaders can now essentially say anything on Twitter. But as it takes us to hell in a bucket, it won't go without Manjoo's brilliant tweet-length description:

"a platform meant for people to yell things at the news, usually without nuance."

Screen grab from Roger Kisby's screen grab

While we have a codger-dotard president wanting to yell things less funny than "hey you kids, get off my lawn," it might occur to the company to introduce some hysteresis (at least), and maybe save the world. Just a thought. Call it a fantasy, but it's not misguided.

Back in the real world of make-believe, without reading any of the text of the report from Whitney Richardson and Brian X. Chen on CES 2018, the opening time-lapse of the throng provided by Roger Kisby for the NYT is freaky, wonderful and horrific. I sometimes joke about getting a touch of agoraphobia, but I'm super-happy about not experiencing that first hand.

The second video-bite in the article of bedazzled attendees herding through a serpentine passage lined with surround-view displays stitched into sunset over the clouds, taking their own videos of the video is meta-fabulous.

13.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Underground railroad Permalink to this item

Fascinating feature in last week's NYT Magazine: The Case for the Subway. Needs to be made great again, but it's still really something.

5.66 million riders a day

8,477 trains a day

600V on the 3rd rail

0 zones

1 fare

24/7 schedule

13 million gallons of water pumped out "on a dry day"

665 miles of track

$111 billion of maintenance and upgrade projects needed (for starters)

$1.7 trillion NYC's Gross Metro Product in 2016

"Like most regular riders, I tend to think of the subway as a necessary evil, the least worst way to get where I’m going, which made it a little disorienting to spend time with someone who rides the subway for fun. But in its early years, hundreds of thousands of people did just that every Sunday. According to the historian Clifton Hood, it was called “doing the subway.” Diamond calls it “railfanning.”

"The subway is a very different sort of marvel today. What’s miraculous at this point is that it still works at all. The fact that it does, that even after decades of neglect it is still somehow managing to carry New York’s economy on its back, may be the best argument for giving it everything it needs, and then a whole lot more."

12.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The quick and the dead Permalink to this item

Michael J. Socolow weighs in for academe, giving a Columbia Journalism Review raspberry to bestselling author Michael Wolff and his flaming-hot book about you-know-who. The "industry" is rotting, and Wolff is laughing his way to the bank, how do you like that, not very much, thank you.

They all knew Wolff was a snake, and just for example, that thing about Rupert Murdoch 9 years ago, with this precious foreshadowing bauble on a reviewer's tongue:

"The book is a strangely alluring artifact, with huge gaps in execution and stylistic tics that border on parody; it will nonetheless provide a deeply satisfying experience for the media-interested."

That sounds just like both the Trump administration and this latest book about it, in fact. (Any opinions I have about F&F are unsullied by actually having read it for myself, I should note.) Huge gaps in execution and stylistic tics that border on parody, if not a deeply satisfying experience for all concerned. "They are a pair, these two," Carr wrote, about Wolff and Murdoch, or Wolff and Bannon, or Trump and the world. "Both adore gossip and revel in their unpleasantness, and neither gives a rip what anyone else thinks of him." There are probably more eerie parallels, but life is short, and I didn't finish that old review of a book about some other tabloid hack, either.

Who knew there was a time when journalists made good money, "as much as the average doctor or lawyer," according to H.L. Mencken's reported 1927 complaint? (He was worried they were making too much money.) We seem to have leveled that playing field well enough.

"Journalism never paid as well as people think, and most of the journalists I know haven’t had raises in years. The entire culture of American journalism is suffering, as President Trump and his supporters attack a “media elite” that doesn’t actually exist anymore outside of a very few select people in New York City and Washington, DC. Everyone else in the business is barely scraping by."

That's what I figured, anyway.

Basket of deplorable Permalink to this item

It's probably not just me that has "Trump Is a Racist" in "Trends for you" on Twitter this morning. Yesterday, Keith Boykin tweeted the question, "When did you know?" with 9 choices, going back to housing discrimination on up to pardoning Joe Arpaio and Nazis are "very fine people," and yesterday's obscenity. I'm sure it's not just me who felt like my head was exploding yesterday.

How can this be happening?

The alternative point of view is it's just business as normal at Conservative HQ, leading with the headline, "Trump says what normal Americans think, establishment goes nuts."

That should have been enough, but god help me, I took the jump to see that not only are they fine with normalizing bigotry, they're doing it with gaslighting to boot. "They" (George Rasley, CHQ editor writes in the royal plural) thinks it's liberals who are not "normal." He (or should I say they?) did go so far as to acknowledge the president's execrable characterization was "inelegant."

We don't have to take Rasley's or CHQ's word for what normal Americans think. There are professionals who ask those questions day in and day out. The NY Times provides an interactive presentation of Morning Consult's year-long tracking polls. The "normal" (or, seems apt, "the mean") of the president's job approval is trending downward, across the board. Women, men, all adults, off 6 points.

Private sector workers, unemployed workers, homemakers, retired workers, self-employed workers, students, government workers, off, off, off, off, off, off, off, and below 50% in every category.

All religious categories, even if, evangelicals and protestants remain, inexplicably, above 50%. (Roman Catholics and "all Christians" off 8, and 7 points, and below half now.) Not exactly mainstream religions' finest hour, by the way, that the "Christianity" was mostly in favor to begin with.

What eventually matters, though, is voting (and the arcane state-wise gerrymandering of the electoral college), and even though everyone of the "voted" categories is down (from 3 to 6 percentage points), "voted Trump in 2016" started at 90%, and after year one, the confirmation bias is still strong. What is normal is remarkable and persistent polarization.

Excerpt of NYT interactive

Such greatness our demented narcissist-in-chief has wrought. Countries around the world look at the U.S. in abject horror and disgust. A fraudulent con-man's "negotiation style" has set back foreign relations for a generation.

Before this most explicit obscenity, there was that made-for-TV meeting with Congressional leaders from both parties, apparently intended, as Charles Blow put it to counter the "mentally small and possibly insane" image left by the Fire and Fury with one of "lucidity and acumen, his grasp of the issues and his relish for rapprochement with his political adversaries." As if only.

"But instead what came through was the image of a man who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about; a man who says things that are 180 degrees from the things he has said before; a man who has no clear line of reasoning; a man who is clearly out of his depth and willing to do and say anything to please the people in front of him."

And speaking of religion, this:

"Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy."

In the meantime (!), we hear from James Comey once in a while, and appreciate his point of view. He's not the only one to think of the gift of the people of France, and Emma Lazarus' timeless sonnet. (She wrote it in 1883, as a fundraiser to make a place for the Lady to stand.)

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

9.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Aim high Permalink to this item

Apologies to Friz Freleng

This just in, a fundraiser email informing that no longer-Sheriff but still amply contemptible Joe Arpaio just filed papers to run for the U.S. Senate to fill Jeff Flake's seat.

Seems like a scam, doesn't it? But with what's going on in the White House and the Senate these days, there are probably a ton of angry codgers picturing themselves joining the fray. Surely room for both Grampa Simpson and Yosemite Sam in his dotage? We just don't have enough octogenarians on the job.

Unlike most of the fundraising pitches with a handful of suggested amounts coded into "Donate now" hyperlinks, this one has a tall stack, eleven of them (plus "another amount" if you need it), running from $5 on up to $2,700. Doesn't hurt to ask, right?

8.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The best penny stock and the worst currency in the world Permalink to this item

There is no shortage of opinion about how wonderful Bitcoin is, and enough confusion to go around the world. Mention of a piece on NPR today (which I did not succeed in tracking down) by a friend who was somewhat baffled generated interesting comments and links to follow.

Play money

One was a 2014 piece about what was then the nation's biggest Bitcoin mine, tucked behind the Cascades east of Seattle where the Columbia river's hydropower has made electricty cheap for a long time, because you need a ton of electricity to make this stuff up.

A company I'd never heard of, named after a familiar prefix and unit, Giga Watt bills itself the "Best Home for your Mining" and features an offer of 2.8¢ kW/h electricity (right next to another for 4.7¢, go figure), by which they presumably mean killowatt-hour, not kW per hour. (On the other hand... the derivative of power, thousands or millions or billions of Joules per second per second would be the units for tracking the growing absorption of physical resources to make this virtual currency. That may yet prove the more important measure.)

"Bitcoin's strictly limited money supply harks back to a time when money was a shiny rock you dug out of the ground, not a piece of paper with a dead president (or treasury secretary) on it." – Matt O'Brien

They're building "pods" as the dollars (or BTC! or "ETH coming soon"—look for it to appear on Wikipedia first, maybe?) roll in and enable them, as seen in Google Sketch-up renditions, and tallied in Moses Lake and Pangborn... Drive, in Wenatchee. Oh, there's the same Dave Carlson fellow from the 2014 story about MegaBigPower, CEO of this now thousand times bigger thing. (Meanwhile... "is a totally awesome idea still being worked on. Check back later.")

A fellow I don't know in the FB thread stated definitively that Bitcoin "is sound," followed immediately by "We def need to work out the wrinkles." In another reply, "Decentralized currency is the wave of the future and people need to get on board."

Whoof! We'd better start learning up, then? Here's a start, Matt O'Brien's WaPo Wonkblog piece, Bitcoin is teaching libertarians everything they don't know about economics.

"[E]ven in a world where bitcoin actually did work, it still might not be worth using. At least not from a societal perspective. That's because it's not just a matter of how much bitcoins cost people to use, but also how much it costs everyone else when they do — which could be quite a bit. The type of computers that can quickly solve bitcoin's cryptographically complex equations aren't cheap to run. In fact, they're energy hogs. They already consume more than 0.1 percent of all electricity (or about as much as Denmark), which is remarkable when you consider how little bitcoin is actually used right now. If that ever went up, so would its energy needs — perhaps substantially so. The important thing to understand is that the more bitcoin costs, the more incentive there is to “mine” for it, but the more that happens, the more computing power you need to win new coins. So the amount of energy it uses should go up hand in hand with its price."

"Bitcoin, in other words, is one big negative-externality machine. That's what economists call a cost that someone else has to pay for something you did."

7.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sunday morning follies Permalink to this item

CNN's Jake Tapper chats with Stephen Miller over accusations in Michael Wolff's book. Miller was rocking with anticipation during his introduction with the lede he was about to unfurl:

"Steve Bannon's 'eloquent' description notwithstanding, it's... tragic and unfortunate [looking sidelong at the desk in front of him as he recites his memorized line] that Steve would make these grotesque... comments... so... out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive, and the whole White House staff is deeply disappointed in his comments... which were grotesque [did I say "grotesque" already? I wanted to be sure to get that in] and with respect to the, um, Trump tower meeting that he's talking about, he wasn't even there when this went down, so he's not really a remotely credible source on any of that. It reads like an angry, vindictive person who's spouting off to a... highly discredible [huh, is that actually a word? It should be, I'm going to start using that more often]. The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction."

It's a whole paragraph, of sorts. But wait, there's more to his opening statement. He also wanted to say that "the author is a garbage author of a garbage book," which my god, is Trump putting words in Miller's head?!

It's vindictive, grotesque, garbage, tragic, unfortunate, pure fiction, a pile of trash through and through, "pure false," completely and totally fraudulent, fiction, and just in case I didn't mention it, grotesque. Hysterical. Spectacularly embarrassing false reporting.

So contrary to the experience of people who work with him? Ah, that's not what his ghost-writer for The Art of the Deal says.

The fundamental insights in Michael Wolff's book are 100 per cent consistent with my experience of Trump. Anyone who spends 15 minutes with Trump knows this to be true.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) January 7, 2018

But Miller knows the story he's there to tell. "I saw a man who was a political genius." Seriously? Seriously.

"...we would be landing in descent, there would be a breaking news development, and in 20 minutes, he would dictate 10 paragraphs of new material to address that event, and then deliver that flawlessly in front of an audience of 10,000 people."

Ten paragraphs. From Trump. Delivered flawlessly. Man. If I'd been across that desk, I hope I would have been able to do a 10 second take, just looking at Miller, and then ask him,

Are you high right now? No, seriously, are you on some kind of drugs?

Anne Anderson's 1922 illustration, from Wikipedia

But Tapper tried to stick to the news, the allegations, the responses, and so on. Then after his snide, sneering, condescending, fabulist guest got tired of trying to support his own bullshit, he launched into accusing Tapper (and all of CNN) for being condescending. Later, "hysterical." And "toxic."

He just wanted three minutes to tell his "truth"... which, actually, we just did that, and it was super-truthy.

Miller's list of greivances for what CNN was not covering included "the people getting slaughtered in sanctuary cities." (Did they cover the Bowling Green massacre, for instance?)

Miller wanted to re-spin that you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me "10 paragraphs in 20 minutes" story and it hit me: RUMPLESTILTSKIN!

He's "tapped into something magical that's happening in the hearts of this country."

Epiphany Permanent URL to this day's entry

In the dark Permalink to this item

When the light comes on
It's a shooting star
Fired across the mind's sky

Oxygen rended, glowing,
red hot a moment
warms the imagination
universal whisper
all is known.


New Year's Day sunset contrail

5.Jan.2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Burning down the house Permalink to this item

Bruce Newcombe, talking about his time as Speaker of the Idaho House, in the too-aptly named Legislative Breakdown podcast, Episode One: Herding Cats And Goat Rodeos:

"There was always 9 to 15 people, that you could put a rock on the red button and send 'em home and it wouldn't make any difference; they'd vote 'no' on everything. So you'd never look to those people to be part of the solution.

"But the difference between sending people home and a rock on the red button and now is I didn't have people that wanted to burn the place down. And, I think there's a certain amount of people that just want to destroy government and just start all over again."

That could be a reference to the self-proclaimed "Liberty Legislators," coloring themselves "conservatives" when they need camouflage. They got together for a first annual Legislative preview (called a "Review") of their own, and posted the video on the Redoubt News Facebook page. Complete with patriotic rituals, introduced with instructions for proper behavior, no irony intended, I'm sure, and commands to a very sad quartet of girls acting as Color Guard. Halt. Advance the Colors. Prepare to post the Colors. Post the Colors. Salute.

And so on. Then the free-wheeling opening prayer, to "Holy Father," but sounding like he was talking to the audience, not to a God. "We pray that you will forgive our country for our pride, our arrogance, and our self-reliance." Self-reliance? Also, calling for a "massive movement of repentance," and the whole shebang "in Jesus' name."

Or he could be thinking about Raúl Labrador, a back bencher when Newcombe was in charge, who was promoted to the back bench of the big House, goading the Tea Party nut-jobs in D.C., and now thinking about coming back to Idaho to be governor, on a program of slashing the state budget, by say a third. For starters.

As luck would have it, I got a phone call from a Labrador volunteer as I was writing this, wanting to know if I was going to vote for him in the upcoming primary. I answered (honestly) that I hadn't decided who I was going to vote for. Or which party, for that matter. What issues were most important to me? My pause was long enough to get him to offer up a short list to choose from. Abortion? Second amendment? Education = GET RID OF COMMON CORE? Cutting taxes? Keeping public lands open?

OMG. Education was the only category that even made sense, so I mumbled something about that, which I guess means I'm a tick for anti-Common Core on his sheet. The volunteer was ready to quit before I was, and I had to ask him, "Are you interested in my input, or just looking for my support?"

Of course, oh yes, yes, he'd love to hear more from me. I brought up the issue of the gross blunder in the Dec. 22 Labrador Letter that I brought up last month, preamble to his self-righteous indignation about the "whoppers" he says other people were telling about the Republican tax plan.

He said he'd pass that on.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking, and the careless self-aggrandizing blunder has ripened into a five Pinocchio stinking lie. To wit, the original and as-yet uncorrected Labrador claim:

"For the average family that is working paycheck to paycheck, this tax bill will lower their taxes by an average of 60 percent. The average single mother will receive a 70 percent tax cut."

That is nowhere close to reality. We don't know what group of "average families" he might have been talking about, but no one is getting a 60 percent tax cut. The Congressman would know that if he'd read the tax bill he voted for.

As noted two weeks ago, taxpayers in the bottom quintile (income less than $25,000) will see an average tax cut of 60 dollars. Not 60 percent.

4.Jan.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Views of the population density divide Permalink to this item

Outside the paywall, the WSJ offers up a set of datagraphics about The Divide Between America’s Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns. Lots to think about and discuss.

The caption next to "Change in population since 2007" ends with "populations have shrunk" (in rural areas and small towns), even though that's not what the source data say. It's +0.4%, which is small compared to 7.1, 9.0, 9.5%, but it's still plus. Higher death rate. Double the percent that is foreign-born (like everywhere else), but from a much lower starting point. 2% vs. 12% in large metro back in 1980, now 3.8% vs. 22.3%. Median household income topped out at the turn of the millennium.

BJS stats for crime rate by population density

The one that jumped out and shouted at me is that violent crime has dropped dramatically, such that all four categories have rates below half of what the safest, least populated areas had in 1993.

Male labor force participation rate, age 16 and older varies from 65-67% in large metro areas and their suburbs, down to 56% in rural/small towns. (For some odd reason, that one graph is not zero-based; all the others are.) "Small bank loans, change since 2005, adjusted for inflation" started from zero, plunged deeply sub-zero with the Great Recession, never recovered in the medium/small and rural areas.)

Death rates for cardiovascular disease and cancer are down all over. Diabetes is up all over, highest in rural/small towns. Maternal death rates are up all over, highest in rural/small towns, which have rates more than three times what they were in 2000.

Suicide is up, all over, worse as you get away from large metro.

(Irksome: "print preview" shows they didn't bother providing for making a hard copy. Cut and paste shows that all the charts are composited with HTML and images, and so that doesn't work either. Their "print" button does not lead to a printed version of the story as shown on the web.)

A mind is a terrible thing to waste Permalink to this item

Looking for that semi-comic garbled version of the iconic ad slogan, I came across a more worthy item from David Sable in AdAge, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original, in 2011.

“A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” has become emblematic of some of the best values of America—a belief in equal opportunity, in education, in human dignity and hope. And some of the best values in advertising, too: the timelessness of great emotional creative that’s rooted in insight, in emotion, in a great story that has the power to create a legacy.

The author is (still) the Global CEO of Y&R (once Young & Rubicam), which bills itself as "one of the world's most iconic global agencies" and with the motto, "We resist the usual." Back in 1971, it was Y&R that came up with that motto for what was then the United Negro College Fund and is now UNCF. They're still busy! They have a STEM Scholars program, they're hosting MLK celebrations across the country, supporting interns and fellowships, and had a statement about the resignation of the White House Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, calling for a "reboot" on their recommendations for historically black colleges and universities.

"The Trump administration should make good on its promises and commitments to the HBCU community. These actions must include providing additional resources and investments that will enable these historic institutions to grow their educational and economic impact and innovate for the future."

That brief excursion down memory lane sprang to mind this morning upon the pull quote in the lede of the written statement from the POTUS—that's right, it was written, not stubbed into tweets (@realDonaldTrump hasn't figured out threads yet, and besides, we all know he couldn't piece together four coherent paragraphs).

Talk about your brilliant marketing, Michael Wolff is getting a ton for his Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House via the NYMag excerpt burning up the intertubes right now.

The POTUS statement took some doing, but give the media team that did it credit for capturing the essence of their boss, if not the full Bizarro verbal styling. Let us parse.

"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency."

In the "I alone can fix it" vein; his campaign manager for the final stretch that brought him into office, nothing.

"When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."

Whatever Bannon needs, a White House job isn't on the list any more. Been there, done that. His Seinfeld residuals are all the annuity he'll ever need and running Breitbart is a lot more fun than playing suck-up to Lord Tweet-oh. It seems quite certain Bannon's mind is intact, which, you know, we're not so sure about the author of that particular sentence.

"A staffer." "Very little to do with our historic victory." (The royal "our," that's nice.) Roy Moore is his fault. A pretender. A leaker. Rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me. (Wait, not "us"?) But this is the pièce de resistance:

Steve doesn't represent my base—he's only in it for himself.

New Year's Day, 2018 Permanent URL to this day's entry

New Year's Eve, 2017

There were some celebratory explosions last night, way louder than the nearest transformer blowing up a squirrel has ever been, and I wondered if the power went out (it didn't) and whether the spectators on hand had their ears ringing (I'm sure they did) or whether it was a terrorist attack (haven't checked the news, but presumably no, not out here next-door to the middle of nowhere).

This after a non-gun toting friend offered up advice validated by Mythbusters (he said), that "if you're going to fire off guns tonight, make sure you aim straight up!" That way (the myth-busting theory goes), the bullet loses more energy and won't be be traveling fast enough to seriously injure anyone, unlike when you shoot at an angle, and the bullet maintains lethal velocity on the way back down.

None of the gun handling instruction I had contemplated the question; I can't imagine anyone thought it was even necessary to state the obvious safety rule to Don't Do That At All There Are Such Things As Stupid Questions. But apparently shooting at midnight is a Thing, given that lighting off not-safe and not-sane fireworks has mostly been done already? Especially in the South? And up here among the Southern attitude folk. From a resident of Florida last night:

Well, it's New Years Eve in The South.

The celebratory gunfire has started right on time.

— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) January 1, 2018

Relatively peaceful up here this morning, anyway, that's nice. Sunny, not too cold. Let's see if we can arrange for a more generally peaceful and happy new year, why don't we?

This new year, ENOUGH Permalink to this item

The list of insults would have just—barely—fit in a 280-character tweet, but not with a link to the context provided by Peter Baker's Sunday front-page contribution to the NYT "Trump's Way" series, with a forgettable title in the web version about "reinventing."

Repurposing is more like it.

The print version was closer to the mark: "Under Trump, a Once Unimaginable Presidency Becomes Reality."

And in the subheads, "jettisoning" or "discarding" "conventions" and "norms" are too normal-sounding. Blunders with a near-total ignorance of history, as he and his family rob the American people blind and soil the nation.

Do give the man credit for reinventing communication from the executive branch, starting with the hysterical crowd-counting debasement of his first press secretary, and continuing with his daily Twitter feed of Bizarro World statecraft.

From his campaign on into his term of office, a stream of insults, expressive, in his inimitable smash-and-grab style. In all the spears he jabs out with his stubby Twitter fingers, you can hear the echoes of the father he was never good enough for.

Crazy, psycho, short and fat, crooked, totally inept, a joke, dumb as a rock, disgusting, puppet, weak and out of control, sleazy, wacky, totally unhinged, incompetent, lightweight and the dumbest man on television. "Among others."

It all boils down to Loser.

Even when he's conned his way to winning something. E.J. Dionne Jr.: in the Washington Post: This new year, tell Trump: Enough.

"In 2018, Trump’s abuses of power, his indifference to truth and his autocratic habits will be the central issues in our politics. Nothing else comes close.

"This means there is no more vital business than containing Trump and, if circumstances demand it, removing him from office. This applies not only to progressives and liberals but also to everyone else, from left to right, who would defend our democratic values and republican institutions."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007