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unraveling

30.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You get what you pay for dept. Permalink to this item

I've been doing business with Amazon since they were a tiny startup about books, and buying online felt a little edgy. I've been advertising a little for them, since... wow, 21 years ago come January. That was well after MAKE MONEY FAST but long, long before online retail was much of a thing. It was back when I had a day job, in fact.

Two decades later, they're a behemoth, taking over everything and Jeff Bezos is crazy, crazy rich, spawning incredible wealth memes such as the $1,000 per pixel visualization, one scroll right at a time. (Most of that is about the 400 richest humans in the world, and their $3.5 trillion-ish of wealth, but ok.) Says here, Jeff (can we call him Jeff?) is ticking up $9 million an hour.

No-name webcam marketing image

But anyway, the negative reviews. They remain, I daresay, more reliable than the positive ones. Not to be too negative (which I can be), but a word to the wise. After I asked a friend in what we might still call the film business (even though there isn't much film in it anymore) for a recommendation for an inexpensive webcam, and he gave a couple, I considered the more expensive one, and the less expensive one, and went with the latter, without bothering to read the 1 and 2 star reviews, which I should have done. I think I noted it was net 4.5 stars. Older and wiser, here's my short take, on the decidedly un-branded, made in China USB VIDEO CAMERA:

Good: Inexpensive. Quick delivery

Bad: installation a bit funky, maybe because I'm till running win7 on my desktop, but idk. The "auto install" failed, the troubleshooter... succeeded, with the audio driver apparently the piece that needed retrying.

Mediocre: video quality on a 1/2.7" 2MP sensor was hardly what I'd call "HD" but I might have lived with it. The recommended distance of 1.5-5m is fail for hanging over the monitor (assuming you want to be near the keyboard, etc. My typical distance to screen is <30". Less than 1.5m wasn't in focus. More than 1.5m is too far away to see if it's in focus.

Ugly: the 4" plastic tripod with a plastic threaded post, quickly buggered by the female brass threading on the device clamp. I did expect to hang it off the monitor... and could make do if that was too close, but

Fail: the microphone/audio quality sounds like I'm wearing a heavy mask.

By now, you know how good Zoom is, and isn't. It's not exactly Hi-Fi, and this wasn't even close to being good enough for that. So bad, in fact, that it was time to use Amazon's return process, maybe for my first time. That was unexpectedly good. Not a lot of questions asked and all I had to do was drop it off at the nearest UPS Store, no outer packaging (I did stuff some newspaper in the box so it didn't rattle, as it did on the way in), no charge. Show them the QR code provided, on my phone, and that's it.

Another of these let's call them cheap webcams touts its "dual built-in microphones," and the 1 and 2-star reviews pan it as well. Unhappy customers at 39.99, now it's 29.99 and I'll bet they're still unhappy. The 5-star reviews read like creative writing contest entries. Amazon tags "verified purchasers," and vets reviews. (And editing of reviews; I added a comment after I read some of the incredible—i.e. not credible—positive reviews, and that's under review.)

That product has a brand name at least, and a Service Team bot that has answered all of the 1-star (and none of the 2-star) reviews with an apology and pleading: "We express our great appreciation that you could give us these suggestions. Could you please give us a second chance to make things right?" The email address is garbled, but one might be able to assemble/error correct, assuming it's gmail.com, rather than gmai.com.

Let's filter the search. $50 and up. Here's one for a whopping $110 and a "well-known brand." Or is it? "You could purchase a $40 camera and get just as good quality." Or just as bad. "Imagine paying $130 for a bootleg logitech webcam to show up. Awesome." (I bet they're all Chinese, so what's a "knockoff" at this point?!)

Also everything seems to add up to 4.5 or so stars. Funny, that.

29.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If we can stop one heart from breaking Permalink to this item

We get a lot of letters... in a week's worth of papers, and I just want to answer every one of them. I did answer one, on Friday (before adding to it for a more rambling blog post here), but their queue grinds slowly. It was weeks, the last time I sent one in to the Idaho Press. August, I see that was. I'd chafe at their one-per-30-day limit if I couldn't write to my heart's content here.

Today's batch earns a thank you to Richard Schauer for introducing me to the antipodal term of art, WOAT. I'm not as sanguine as he is about the transition, though. It's worse than "not helping"; I expect seven and a half weeks of continuing sabotage, the likes of which the executive branch has never seen. For example: tens of thousands of career employees reclassified to "fire at will" status. 88% of the workforce in the Office of Management and Budget, for starters.

April, 2016 photo

Thanks for Steve Broden's prayer for the good health of Governor Brad Little. (And while we're praying, add one for Luke Malek's campaign for Lt. Governor. Either that or we'll all be walking through disinfectant cubes.)

The Taylors sent advance notice of cancel our subscription, I guess, after they "see who gets sworn in" by reading the paper on 1/21/21, "half fed" up about "the pure acidic vitriolic, one sided witches brew spewing forth from the “honorable” Jim Jones and Judy Ferro," oh my. They tell us they've been here 44 years (almost as long as me), "refugees from rapdily deteriorating California." You know, the state with the economy larger than all but four countries in the world. (Jim Jones is a veteran, former Idaho Attorney General and a former Idaho Supreme Court Justice, which yes, earns him an "Honorable," and if you have too much time on your hands go read through his Idaho Press columns and see if you can identify "vitriol" there. Start with his calm explanation of why "there is no conceivable path to re-election for Donald Trump." I mean, he's not even derisive, with ample cause for that. It's not like anyone is a stranger to "vitriol," after four years of trumpery.)

Gideon Ot, of Nampa has a subtle deprecation of the idea that wearing a mask might be good for you. Sure there's a pandemic raging, but let's not forget about "heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, and other illnesses killing millions of people each year." We should be "eating healthy, exercising, drinking water, getting sleep, getting sun, breathing properly, socializing/reducing stress, reducing toxins and soooooo much more."

One reminder (we need more!) to be thankful, from Dena Duncan. Partricia Kelley's castigation of our Congressional delegation "stand[ing] silent beside the Russians in refusing to acknowledge the results of the Presidential election" and thereby "supporting the attempted coup" by you-know-who. Sue Fillman's report of the "holiday spirit" shared at The Village in Meridian, anti-maskers stink-eyeing and coughing at others. Ho ho ho!

Pat Cone of Eagle wants "a complete, transparent & available audit of all 50 states" to settle the election once and for all. "All voter polls [sic] must be cleared of any deaths or address changes." And then "Any demonstrators be they Republican, Democratic, white supremacist, young, old, black, white, caught destroying, looting, stealing or burning should receive a minimum 5 years in prison."

Galen Kidd (from the rather Democrat-run city of Boise) thinks Chuck Shumer "should scare the be-geeies [sic] out of every American" at the prospect of omg, he's got a list, right down to "Financial bailout of the corrupt democrat-run cities and States that supports tyranny, pillaging and murder." And John Durham, not allowed to pop his October surprise and swing the deal. All a part of the conspiracy! Whatever became of John Durham, anyway? Many people are asking that question. Including Donald Trump, who doesn't sound good, even in the Washington Examiner.

Finally, earning an Editor's Note for his response to that Nov. 20 Jim Jones column, spluttering that Jones' statement that there is no evidence of notable fraud "is beyond preposterous," Stephen Leonard of Boise:

"Even what we know already is overwhelming and shocking circumstantial evidence of widespread, systemic, coordinated fraud, and we await Trump’s legal teams promised court filings."

Without belaboring the point, the Editor's note says huh uh. No evidence of widespread fraud. Voting officials from both political parties, and so on. "On Friday, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected the Trump campaign’s latest effort to challenge the state’s election results." Indeed, yesterday's blog post. They didn't rub it in to point out that we've now had FORTY of those "court filings," and Team +rump is 1-39. I don't suppose Leonard will give up. Not with this kind of investment:

"If [+rump's lawyers] are able to present the evidence they claim to have, we will have proof that Biden’s “win” was as fraudulent, and orchestrated by some of the same people, as Nicolas Maduro’s 80% landslide in Venezuela. If that is true, we have been the victims of the greatest political crime in our nation’s history."

All those "ifs"! I thought of Emily Dickinson's "if." We have a lot of fainting robins out of the nest right now.

28.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Without a prayer Permalink to this item

A unanimous ruling by a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, with an opinion said to be "scathing," was written by +rump-appointed Judge Stephanos Bibas. (The other two judges were appointed by Republicans as well; not that that should matter, right?) IANAL but the first five sentences get most of the work done. Spoiler alert:

"Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

The appeal was actually about almost nothing, "whether the District Court abused its discretion in not letting the Campaign amend its complaint a second time. It did not." The Circuit Court commended the lower court "for its fast, fair, patient handling of this demanding litigation."

The appeal of the District Court and the Campaign's claims had "no merit," the opinion states. "[A]llegations are vague and conclusory." Each of several "defects is fatal." Its request to (again) amend its amended complaint was "both inequitable and futile." Oh, and "at oral argument in the District Court, the Campaign specifically disavowed any claim of fraud."

“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here. Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

The not-Giuliani leg of the two-legged campaign's legal triad bravely tweeted "On to SCOTUS!" As if... even the freshly packed Supremes could make a silk purse out of this sow's rump? Rudy "suggested it was not clear whether the appeals court’s action would be challenged in the Supreme Court," but don't worry kids:

“There are any number of cases that we can take to the Supreme Court,” he said in an interview Friday night on One America News, an appearance during which he repeated the same claims that were rejected by the 3rd Circuit panel. “We have to decide which is the right one. There may even be one that hasn’t yet started but will be started in a day or two that might be the right one.”

Akiva Cohen provides a more lawyerly breakdown of the opinion, in a Twitter thread with entertaining and instructive detail. I think it's a fair tl;dr to summarize as "a coldly furious rebuke of everything this President and his clown-show complement of attorneys are trying to do to our democracy."

So yeah, no, this one won't be headed to a higher court. There have been none of substance in the barrage of bad pleadings that have shown even a remote whiff of being winnable, let alone capable of changing even one state's outcome. Nothing has even risen to the level of a Hail Mary.

Black Friday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Good Neighbor policy Permalink to this item

William Freeman's exhortation to "Open Idaho full bore" is breathtaking, for those able to wade through the dry desert of statistics in his letter to the letter to the Idaho Press that ran Thanksgiving Day. Not so many of us are yet sick, or dead, he shows us. Compared to a regular year. People die. Let's just get over it.

This is the same non-plan that much of our country's leadership "implemented" this year, the same non-plan that made us Number 1 in the world for infection and death from Covid-19. How exceptional we are, as we await miracles to come.

The letter encouraged me to revisit FDR's stirring first inaugural speech given on March 4, 1933. (Thank goodness we moved that date to January!) Read (or listen) past the 2nd paragraph's quotable line about "fear itself." In 1933, unlike today, we were "stricken by no plague of locusts." Still, the depths of the Great Depression confronted us with a familiar challenge: a genuine crisis in leadership.

“Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.”

Those words echo through the ages nearly a century later. Honesty! Honor! Sacred obligation! Unselfishness! We look forward to hearing such words again, on January 20, 2021.

What FDR said about our international relations might also be considered for the strained relations of Ada and Canyon counties:

"In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor: the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors."

Here at the third peak in Idaho, with hospitalizations and ICU usage double what it was in July, Canyon County has the 14th highest incidence rate of Idaho's 44 counties. The 7-day moving average is over 100 cases per hundred thousand in five counties; Washington (105) and Gem (116) are in the same Southwest Public Health District as Canyon; 5 of the 6 counties are at Covid-19 RED ALERT. (Statewide, Madison Co.'s average is over 154 cases per 100k; Clearwater Co. over 300; 0.3%. In a week.)

Datagraphic for Ada and Canyon Covid-19 incidence over time

Ada County, with most of its population in Boise, and under a Public Health Emergency Order is responding to Mayor McLean's leadership, notwithstanding a gaggle of covidiots carrying torches outside her house to protest the tyranny of having to take public health precautions and forgo their daughter's ballet recital. (Electric torches, it looks like. No pitchforks that I could see.)

The invasive species goading them along is a serial trespasser, recently seen being wheeled out of the state capitol in an office chair, and given a one-year notice to stay TFO. Ammon Bundy is now arguing that his "right to due process" includes seeing people's faces when he goes to trial. A jury trial, of course, which, we're not having right how, because of Covid-19. Check back in January.

In William Freeman's town, the mayor is asking nicely that people do the right thing, "not because someone is making you, because someone is asking you." So far, that's not working very well.

23.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The nuttiest of the nut-flavored Right Wing Jobs Permalink to this item

"Right Wing Nut Job" is a jolly nickname, possibly trivializing a signifcant danger. There must be something better for the combination of Joe McCarthy, Lee Atwater, Roy Cohn and all their successors in a foul stew. George Rasley, the editor of Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ website, celebrates the "over 300 political campaigns" he's been in, his membership in MENSA, his time on Dan Quayle's staff and smaller roles behind the scenes of conservative politics. His headline/teaser is a gaslighting jewel: "Thanksgiving Is Time To #TakeBackNormal".

Normal, just imagine. It's a creative thought exercise as Covid-19 reaches another million of us, in just the last week. "If the attempted theft of the 2020 presidential election wasn’t enough," he begins, reminding me of Voltaire's observation: "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."

The predicate of his counterfactual premise: "Democrats will go to any length to create a totalitarian society with themselves and their Leftist allies in the media and academia as the oligarchs in charge." Rasley and the CHQ are also offering a personal testimonial for Sidney Powell, late of the Crack Coup Trio for Trump® (a.k.a. the "Elite Strike Force"), who I understand from Breitbart News' tweeter (the Lord works in mysterious ways) "via Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn that she she understood the Trump campaign’s statement that she is not part of the campaign’s legal team and she is proceeding to file an “epic” lawsuit this week." Biblical, she promised.

I'm still trying to figure out WHO IS THE KRAKEN?! in this drama. And how it is that the dead hand (seven years' dead) of Hugo Chavez reached into 2020? The Banana Republic connection? (Don't take it from me, take it from Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican. Stick around after the leading soundbite; it's a good 7 minutes with Jake Tapper.)

In the meantime, here came the judge in Pennsylvania to assess whether "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence" could justify throwing out 7 million votes. (Spoiler alert: nope.)

Reading Greg Sargent's take on the ticking time bomb at the center of our system for electing presidents, I'm thinking again about +rump's using the Electoral College has the ultimate tool for disenfranchisement and theft might be the most persuasive possible argument for its elimination. If the campaign does manage to monkey wrench even one state's electors, that could be a tipping point.

Meanwhile... 35,000 people are watching the livestream of an appointed board in Michigan listening to superfluous public comment on certifying the state's election results, and 112 former National Security Officials calling out the "serious threat to America’s democratic process and to our national security" and calling on "Republican leaders—especially those in Congress—to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election." 164 business leaders called on +rump to concede as well. They know a loser when they see one.

So, he must be loving all the attention. While he's out golfing, and stuff.

Update, 5:08 pm MST:
I'll be darned, GSA Emily rolled over and the (cash flow) transition is underway.

22.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unmanned at the top Permalink to this item

My first chance to vote for a president was here in Idaho, when Jimmy Carter ran against the guy who pardoned the guy who lied on national TV when he said "I never obstructed justice" and "I'm not a crook." The Ford-Carter contest was still 3 years away when most of the country watched, slack-jawed and dumbfounded at the spectacle. (God bless the guy on the switcher who put that crowd shot in the clip.)

Cropped from ABC News crowd shot

Tricky Dick said put all his money from his book (who knew he had a book?!) and his post-veep lawyering into real estate, he assured us, to "clean the decks." With good, clean real estate. It's not obvious what prompted Calvin Lawrence to revisit that moment on its 39th anniversary, but the now eight-years-ago piece on Richard Nixon and Other Deceitful Politicians is overripe for an update. We've got a doozy to add to the list right now.

Fast-forward eight years (to the day), the New York Times Magazine features a preview of what's waiting for Agent Orange after he's dragged out of office in January. The headline for the jump is Can America Restore the Rule of Law Without Prosecuting Trump? and the page reproduces the printed cover rendering of a manilla folder with an INDIVIDUAL-1 label above the dek: "Donald Trump’s potential criminal liability is the key to understanding his presidency. When he leaves office, it will present the country with a historic dilemma." The skanky elephant in the room with no corners:

"No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability."

Nevermind all the private criming New York State has been working on; "The bigger and infinitely more fraught question is how to address Trump’s potentially criminal acts as a political candidate and president. Those would most likely be federal crimes that could only be prosecuted by the federal government." What would be worse, the absolutley justified prosecution of a former president, or a second massive failure to convict him for his high crimes and misdemeanors? Jonathan Mahler contemplates the setback to future efforts at accountability, how it would "embolden aspiring abusers of authority." More than not being prosecuted at all?!

Given our unprecedented moment, the man himself "cavalierly call[ing] for the imprisonment of political opponents" and working to make the Attorney General of the United States another bootlicking fixer, it's tempting to make an exception for simple fairness, which demands that he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As opposed to sticking to the "norms" in defense of Republicans while Republicans discard whatever norms they please when it suits them. (Adam Parkhomenko boiled that down without an old-fashioned obscenity filter.)

In response to the devolution of leadership in the deepening national crisis of the pandemic, and the tyranny of having to wear face masks to protect against infection, there was that plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, you might recall; last week more details about the domestic terrorism brainstorming came out, plan B including "a week-long series of televised executions," and plan C "burning down the state house," with the legislators locked inside. For a generation raised on the Global War on Terror, and a president seeding domestic terrorism with LIBERATE tweets back in April, you have to think big to earn headlines.

The same Proud Boys called on to "stand back and stand by" in +rump's first debate raging raging were just called forth by Milwaukee's infamous former sheriff, to what better location than the Mayfair Mall, a day after a mass shooting there? (The shooter is still at large.) Not-sheriff David Clarke led the We Love +rump! chant with a bullhorn. Keep it simple.

The honkers were out on the street corner at the same time as the +rump campaign-funded $2 million recount in the county was underway at the Wisconsin Center downtown, a midwestern version of Florida's "Brooks Brothers" debacle for the 2000 election.

The +rump team wants to make objections. Lots of objections. They want to be able to talk to the workers, question workers, have things set aside and not counted until "later." They want to throw out ballots wholesale. Everything from certain Wards. All the folded ballots. (Which all the ballots put in to envelopes had to be.)

A handful or dozens or even hundres of defective ballots aren't going to get the job done. The not-yet-official count showed more than 69% of the ballots (317,251) for Biden, and almost 183,000 fewer for +rump. He lost the state by more than 20,000 votes. The objectors are laying grounds for yet another lawsuit that will get tossed out of court, as the desparate steal-the-election strategy of obstruct & delay slogs on. The dream is to appeal enough individual state contests to the Supreme Court, which +rump imagines is chomping at the bit to hand him a second term and a Stay Out of Jail Card.

In her November 21 Letter from an American, Heather Cox Richardson focuses on "the odd prospect of a president fighting desperately to keep a job he evidently doesn’t want," that he evidently never wanted. It was a publicity stunt gone bad, a fence turtle from the decades-long Republican campaign to demonize the Clintons. Since this last act's handwriting on the wall went ALL CAPS two weeks ago, he's been tweeting from the bunker, gone golfing, clammed up, checked out early.

No surprise, really: when the crisis started on his watch first lit up back in March, and long before we knew how deadly his incompetence would turn out to be, he proclaimed the family motto: "I Don’t Take Responsibility at All." The rest is commentary, and a lot of eulogies.

21.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fury and fire Permalink to this item

Two weeks ago today, newspapers across the country poured ink into BIDEN BEATS TRUMP banners. That was a nice way to start the weekend. If we were on the non-psychopathic timeline, Agent Orange would've put on his big boy pants, gritted his teeth and conceded the obvious. Instead, +rump's latest F-list celebrity lawyers are doing their damndest to make the case against the Electoral College between the people and their choice for Dear Leader, "persuading Republican legislators to intervene on his behalf in battleground states."

After a couple of Wayne County Republicans tried to kibosh everybody's vote because they didn't like the way it turned out, and then caved into the outrage over their attempted (and likely futile) intervention, they then tried to un-cave. (A spokeswoman for Michigan’s secretary of state said "no takebacks.") The wounded Honey Badger POTUS invited the leaders of Michigan's legislature to come to the White House and talk about how they could just step in and hand the state's electoral votes to the loser. (Good on them for saying no. From Heather Cox Richardson's Letter: "Michigan's Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said they used their time with the president to press him for more money to help Michigan fight the coronavirus, which continues to rage across the country.")

A person familiar with the campaign’s legal strategy said it has become a “more targeted approach towards getting the legislators engaged.”

"Engaged" is doing a ton of work there. Meanwhile, the generational crisis that +rump and his stooges have spent a year running away from is burning white-hot just as a lot of Americans are traveling to what Scott Atlas noted will be their grandparents' last Thanskgiving. (No, seriously. He said that. Out loud.)

Veepence came out of his burrow, made a statement, then was scared off by the shadow of reporters' questions, so it'll be six more months of Covid-19. Or as the WHCTF put it in their latest weekly report,

“There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration,” this week’s report states. “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.”

Does this gaslighting from Dear Subleader reassure you?

“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” Mr. Pence declared, adding: “We approach this moment with the confidence of experience. We know the American people know what to do.”

Still cap'd from Ed Westerfield tweeted video

Do we know that? Can we see it happening? Or are we setting records for the number of confirmed cases day after day as airports jam up with people traveling to some family member's last Thanksgiving?

The CDC has a ton of guidance comprising "know what to do," but we also have a +rumpian base who still think it's a hoax (and QAnon is real), and that there was massive election fraud hiding the fact that +rump won the election. This is what relentless flooding the zone with shit can get you: cognitive dissonance the likes of which you've never seen. 52% of Republicans polled by Reuters/Ipsos think +rump "rightfully won."

In the country that won the space race (spoiler alert: it was rocket science) we can now interact with the story that states that imposed few restrictions now have the worst outbreaks and test our powers of scientific inference. Then compare what our least credible leaders' celebrating their "success" with what other countries have achieved:

"New Zealand recently lifted all restrictions following 10 days with no new cases. ... Taiwan recently recorded 200 days without a new coronavirus case ... South Korea flattened the curve with aggressive testing and contact tracing, as well as widespread mask wearing."

By comparison, in our neck of the woods, the nearly-incomprehensible headline that the South Central Health District shut down a mask mandate again, as hospital diverts ICU patients. That's the kind of headline that precedes this kind: How Minot became the COVID-19 capital of North Dakota, "a nightmare nexus of virus skepticism, underestimated rural spread, delayed action and an overburdened hospital system."

From NYT interactive, Avg. daily coronavirus cases per capita vs. control measures

Update: Former Obama health care head Andy Slavitt's short thread, South Dakota vs. Vermont.

20.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now back to current events Permalink to this item

David E. Sanger's news analysis: Trump’s Attempts to Overturn the Election Are Unparalleled in U.S. History. Just to put it in a longer perspective. "The president’s push to prevent states from certifying electors and get legislators to override voters’ will eclipse even the bitter 1876 election as an audacious use of brute political force." That was the time "Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction."

A friend sharing the link added, "his actions are those of an autocrat." What I said:

An aspiring autocrat. It is the test of our lifetime to squelch that aspiration.

His actions are those of a psychopath. Now we all know what that's like. Now all of those other countries we used to point at and cluck our tongues (while our secret agencies corrupted them in service to colonialism) are answering back. "You see?"

We are alternately horrified, and hopeful; the former at the audacity, and, when we can spare a moment from the Main Event, the damage being done by a "lame duck" that is more of a wounded Honey Badger. We're hopeful that Sanger and others who estimate +rump's "chances of succeeding [to be] somewhere between remote and impossible" are forecasting correctly.

It's hard to know what adjective to apply to what happened yesterday, a press conference with what we're euphemistically calling "the president's legal team," dripping with surreality and rivulets of... something, we're not sure what. (Something in the Bizarro STYLE section.)

Steady as she goes, Glenn Kessler took a whack at fact-checking the craziest news conference of the Trump presidency, ending with a wan lament that it was "one of those days when we wished we had more than Four Pinocchios." The hell? You made up the scale, if it's time to extend it, you have the power. You made up the Bottomless Pinocchio, remember? This is Six Barking Donalds on a scale of Five.

Six Barking Donalds

Cold storage Permalink to this item

Looking in my dated bookmarks collection, the heap of pages I'd pulled up but didn't get around to reading by the end of the day, and saved for "later," I see there are 693 of them from January to date. Out of 6,570 total bookmarks.

My folder naming scheme uses the preface "WIP," for "work in process," and the infinitely expandable -yyyymm numeric suffix. (Some months end up with multiple folders, "b" and "c", etc.) To keep the current stack of folders manageable, I've pushed them a layer deeper after they get a year and more old, and now the folder-of-folders "WIP-Dated" has subfolders going back to 2012. (There's also WIP-NoDate-General and WIP-NoDate-Work.)

Recycling newspapers, c. 1963

Seems fair to say that's gone from "handy" to out of control. Especially when trying to catch up/clean up distracts me like reading old newspapers. The current year spans back to Before Time, with the topmost item a Business Insider "city-dwelling millennial" outsider take on Boise's "major downside": a pathetic public transportation system.

"The Boise metro area has 25 bus routes but most buses come just every 30 minutes, at best, and stop running after about 7 p.m. Boise once had a passenger railway that connected it to nearby cities such as Caldwell, Nampa, and Meridian, but it hasn't been in service since 1928."

Not sure if it's in that giant heap of bookmarks, but searching up "boise interurban railway" shows me that I recently visited the Henderson Genealogy Pages (?!) and its html extract of the Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series, Boise Valley Electric Railroads. (The source cited is on a domain gone stale/for sale, idahohistory.net, but the Idaho State Historical Society is still going. Speaking of which, that link to search results includes a link labeled "Historic Rural Properties of Ada," pointing to a National Park Service "multiple property documentation form" in the National Register of Historic Places. The overview has sections for "Early Transportation Networks," "Federal Reclamation Projects," and "Valley-wide Public Transportation," and it looks like a fascinating document. You'll have to find your own illustrations, though.

When saving (maybe another copy of) that NPS document in my "Railroads" clipfile, I see documents I'd tracked down in June: Kali Steppe's "Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolleys" and Mark Moore's "Boise Valley Streetcars and Interurbans." Searching for that title (without the quotes), I see more pages visited in the browser's short-term memory: Understanding Boise through Maps (which, uh, includes no map images); our county's own web-official Brief History of Ada County; and the beautiful Interurban Car in Caldwell, Idaho entry of the "Idaho Meanderings" blog, by a great-grandson of Idaho's assassinated Governor Frank Steunenberg. (Click through that lead image to see the large version!) Said great-grandson, John Richards, provided a link to a 2002 page out of the University of Idaho Library's Special Collections & Archives with this tight capsule and counterfactual claim about the end of the millennium:

"The tracks of the interurban railways throughout the country and particularly in the West were ripped up and the cars shipped overseas as riders flocked to the freedom of automobile and bus manufacturers conspired to destroy the rail links. In the late 1990's, light interurban rail service is returning to the Boise Valley in the hopes of forestalling the paving of more real estate in the fast growing region."

That did not actually happen. In our current timeline, the city features cutting edge e-scooters, and e-bikes, one or the other of which I imagine a city-dwelling millennial would jump on rather than considering "a 34-minute walk along the river — or a 32-minute bus ride," not counting the 20 minutes to and from the bus stops and up to 30 min. waiting for the next bus. Each way.

The story mentions the recent mayoral election—just a year ago! And that "public transit was a major issue"... but as "one of only two states that doesn't offer state funding for public transportation," it's an impossibly heavy lift.

Alrighty, one down, 692 to go. I hope there aren't any current events to distract me today. Like there were in June, OMG what a month that was. American carnage. POTWEETOH in the bunker. Greetings with vicious dogs and ominous weapons. Police rioting. Our cuckolded state.

18.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still in the black lagoon Permalink to this item

Edited from Daniel Schwen image, Creative Commons license, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USA_tar_bubble_la_brea_CA.jpg

It's a La Brea Tar Pits vein, a noisome swamp of burbling hydrocarbons, periodically burping hydrogen sulfide-laden gas bubbles. A U.S. Senator "just asking" questions of various state officials, and stuff. Lindsey Graham checked in with Georgia Secretary of State to see if couldn't he just throw out all those Black mail-in votes and call it good? Graham's defense seems to be I DIDN'T SAY THAT RIGHT OUT LOUD IT WAS JUST A WINK AND A NOD, but if Lindsey is winking at you, watch your step. (For the record, Brad Raffensperger said he was "stunned," not that he "felt threatened." And there's a complaint against Graham filed with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. Which you might be surprised to learn is a thing.)

The SOS of the not-very-close-to-his-home-in-South Carolina state of Arizona, who Lindsey said he also called, you know, just making the rounds of states that happened to tip the election for Biden, said huh uh no you di'nt.

I came here to talk about Scott Atlas, the remarkable apologist and enabler for POTWEETOH's Covid-19 debacle who's so far gone that Stanford University released a statement making it clear Atlas does not speak for them, nor for the Hoover Institution, which is really far off the deep end. (There's a lot to unlike in the Hoover Institution.)

As someone now close enough to "elderly" to accept the category, please, keep this guy away from me. "For many people, this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not," he said. Right out loud. That "herd immunity" plan is really kicking in. Speaking of bad scripting, the next thing he said was "What are we doing?"

Somebody needs to keep this guy more than 12 feet away from microphones.

Then Anne Appelbaum's comment in 160 characters reset my point of view: "Trump's behavior is not a temper tantrum. It's a carefully planned assault on America democracy, which will have an impact even after he's left the White House." Quoting Jonathan Rauch's tweet-link to his own essay, Firehose of Falsehood.

"What Trump and his supporters are up to should be thought of not as a litigation campaign that is likely to fail, but as an information-warfare campaign that is likely to succeed—and, indeed, is succeeding already. More specifically, they are employing a tactic called “the firehose of falsehood.” This information-warfare technique, according to researchers at the RAND Corporation, is marked by “high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”

The litigation efforts are certainly failing. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 5-2 for America's MayorOverpriced Shyster to GTFO with his complaint. (Whereupon, Rudy Drooly said he hoped to reinsert it with an amended complaint. Another day, another twenty thousand dollars!)

It's "intended not so much to persuade people as to bewilder them," as Joby Warrick and Anton Troianovski put it two years ago, talking about the Russian propaganda machine, which you hardly need to fly over the Atlantic to visit these days. Post-truth, alternative facts, a million MAGAs in the streets, that sort of vein.

As Steve Bannon so infamously put it to Michael Lewis, “the Democrats don’t matter, The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

The degredation will not be over on January 20th. "They will not relinquish their weapon when Trump leaves office." And the return on Vladimir Putin's modest investment in poisoning our democracy continues to confound us. Oligarchy is a toxic stew.

16.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Comparing facemask effectiveness Permalink to this item

This study out of Duke University made a good splash in the news this summer, before being published in Science Advances, on Sept. 2. It's about a measurement technique, testing filter media for their ability to reduce the dispersion of droplets generated by normal speech. (That's less than a comprehensive test of mask design, let alone efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection in use.) You shouldn't be surprised to see that N95 and surgical mask material did best; the filter media are designed to meet this need.

Their study showed that some combinations of material and construction are better than others, and most of the grab-bag of masks they tested were better than nothing. It showed that bandanas aren't very good, and a neck gaiter made out of one-layer polyester/spandex might be worse than nothing (by breaking up droplets, but not stopping them). The "knitted" mask material was next at the bottom (worst) of the field.

Unlike the original, and copies from it, I took the trouble to re-sort the mask (materials) tested in order of efficacy measured. That, and their Figure 3A, "Droplet transmission through face masks" gives a quick, best take of what they found. First, the data in that figure:

Fig. 3A from Duke study, lightly edited

Least transmission is best (top), and the scale is relative to no filter ("None"), 2nd from the bottom. N95 is best, then surgical masks. The next two masks (#5 and #4) were almost as good as the surgical mask's results for four test subjects, although not as good in direct comparison (one subject, 10 trials; shown with the solid black dot and standard deviation-sized whiskers). They describe #5 most fully as "Cotton-polypropylene-cotton mask"; and #4 as "Two-layer polypropylene apron mask." (They don't hint if "apron" is about its design, or where the material came from.)

After the "Swath" of polypropylene mask material, a half dozen varients, mostly cotton, but with an exhaust-valved N95 mask (#2) in the middle were seen to reduce the droplet dispersion by 80% or more. Droplets generated by speaking mostly don't go flying out the exhaust valve of the N95 w/valve. A couple of less effective pleated cotton masks follow, before the worse choices. Note that a single layer mask (#10) performed better than a two-layer mask (#9); the weight and weave undoubtedly matter.

The colors refer to traces in their Fig. 3B; 10 seconds "just breathing," then speaking five times; then 20 seconds watching the dispersion. In those traces, the surgical mask (blue) is flat-lined zero to the scale shown, the green is the no-filter reference, red is the bandana (cutting dispersion only by half), and orange the #13 two-layer cotton, pleated style mask. The dash-number suffixes refer back to the arbitrary numbering of the 14 masks tested. Here's the mask photos, reordered to match the measurements, and, since there was one box left over, their image from the suppplemental information of the (neck gaiter) mask as worn for the test:

Masks in Duke study, ordered by measured efficacy

Now for the disclaimers

What they did: "Proof-of-principle" experiments, with a small number of subjects, measurements that provide a quick and cost-effective way to estimate the efficacy of masks for retaining droplets (larger than 0.5 microns) emitted during speech.

What they didn't do: evaluate various conditions, such as different speakers, volume of speech, speech patterns, coughing, sneezing, etc. The test conditions provided a good way to evaluate the materials, but they also had a somewhat random sampling of mask construction mixed in. I think that makes their measurements appear to have more explanatory power than they do.

What their method does not evaluate: the effect of escape around the mask periphery. Only the N95 masks (#14 without an exhaust vent, and #2 with) are designed to seal to the face. The nature of the measurement is that it tests the mask material as a filter medium, not the device-in-use. They conclude that

"[O]ur method could inform attempts to improve training on proper mask use and help validate approaches to make existing masks reusable."

The training/proper mask use seems out of the measurement scope. The reusability question is within it; for a given medium, what happens after various sorts of washing, etc.? We want "the answer," and will infer away, even when researchers describe their work's limitations. I've tried to limit my summary, here, to just the good and useful inferences.

They'd be the first to tell us, there's more work to be done. In the meantime, I'm going with the surgical mask whenever I can.

15.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Nineteen microseconds Permalink to this item

For children and youth not blinded by their parent's insular culture of denial (we have quite a bit of that in our region), I'm thinking they all know there's a crisis of some sort on the horizon, but day-to-day awareness is probably absorbed by the pandemic more than "the climate" these days. Climate's a big topic, for one thing, and most of the time, you can't see it out the window. (Where we live, there is the month or two of every year when the smoke from burning forests and rangeland does get in your face, but still, bad weather comes and goes.)

Four minutes and seventeen seconds of "Three Seconds" is making the rounds at the moment, in case you're short of existential dread. I see from the jump out of Vimeo that the Film4Climate competition in which it won first prize was four years ago already. Just after you-know-who won you-know-what and Mr. and Mrs. Dear Leader said I REALLY DON'T CARE DO U? and to hell with the Paris Accord and Drill Baby Drill.

There's a lot to unpack, but the timeline perspective: humans and their sometimes brilliant technology have been around a Very Short Time compared to the history of the Earth. Species divergence a few million years back. "Anatomically modern humans" several hundred thousand years, and "behavioural modernity" (as Wikipedia has it this morning, last spelled by a Brit), 50,000 years ago. Some cave paintings, talismans, the occasional fresh frozen corpse coming out of a glacier, and a scattering of fossilized clues still being pieced together.

The script says 140,000 years, which is fine. Versus the 4,500,000,000 year life of our planet, much of which was not nearly as pleasant as today, even with the fires and hurricanes and stuff. Do the 1.4e5/4.5e9 x 24 x 60 x 60 math and round 2.688, is three seconds. The 50,000 years-ago glimpse of "abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior, ... music and dance, exploitation of large game, blade technology" and LOOK WHAT ZOG DO put our human-as-we-know-us span on the earth at one second. Generously.

That is, if we scale the life of our precious planet to the span of one spin, 24 hours, everything about us that we think is So Special, God's gift to warthogs, as it were, happened between 11:59:59 pm and now, midnight. One second.

Also in round numbers, we're one unscaled Earth year into the Covid-19 pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 spreading through the human population. That's 19 microseconds of our scaled-to-a-day planetary story. It's a compressed version of existential crisis. Awareness should be drop-dead easy to come by, but even with first world hospital tents and refrigerated trailers full of corpses, a significant proportion of the population is putting up resistance. Our waning Capo di Capo has punted, gone golfing, goosing his greens with Uncle Sam's green while he still can. It's slightly too early to start the next "campaign," so just smile and wave at his MAGA blackshirts on the way to the links.

In the big, "1 to 3 seconds" picture, burning off 1 or 2% of the human population in a few dozen microseconds won't leave that much of a mark.

13.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Serenity now Permalink to this item

Photo from our yard this week

Fox News called Arizona first, the AP was next—middle of last week, was it?—and now everybody's in, and the only deniers are the Big Baby and the wide tranche of the basiest base. (70% of 70 million?). But that's not top of the page this morning, as new coronavirus cases shoot the moon. More than 160,000 in a day, and 3 days setting new hospitalization records. Those have doubled in the five weeks, to more than 67,000 now. The first and second peaks, in April and July, touched 60,000 and eased off. The death toll is averaging over a thousand a day; more than two "9/11s" in the past week.

But the part I like about Heather Cox Richardson's Letter, "November 12, 2020," is 7 paragraphs in: "President-Elect Joe Biden has been out of the news, working." As one does, when elected to the highest office in the land!

Our second-ever Catholic president(-elect) had a phone call with the Pope, and naturally a readout was shared publicly.

"The President-elect thanked His Holiness for extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness’ leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world. The President-elect expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities."

There are policy teams for the transition. Former officials to reach out to. His "agency review team for the Pentagon is led by female defense policy experts." And one other presidential act: Biden tweeted to extend condolences to the loved ones of peacekeepers killed in a helicopter crash, including six American service members, and to honor their sacrifice.

HCR said he tweeted just once, but I see another tweet, about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and a retweet for the readout of his call with the Pope. All good. Still being stymied in the transition by the failing psychopathic autocrat. A lot more people are going to get needlessly sick and die as a result. Not good.

Graph of new reported Coronavirus cases in the US

12.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What's new? Permalink to this item

Some part of our Zeitgeist is captured just by scanning the headlines. I took a look at the Washington Post's this morning and here's what caught my eye, starting at upper left, and my first take in response:

One estimate I saw was that front-line medical personnel might be able to be vaccinated in January, at best. Cases/day are ramping up all over, over 140,000/day in the US the last two days, Idaho's new record yesterday was 1,693 without one of its 7(?) public health districts reporting. To a first approximation, the (under)reported case fatality rate (CFR) is 1%. (Or more: the US is over 10M cases, and 200,000 deaths, a CFR of 2%.)

So, figure the US likely added another 1,400 deaths, and Idaho 17 yesterday, here as the spike from Election Day is rolling in. Then Thanskgiving. Then Christmas. And the New Year.

It's going to be a long winter.

Update: the banner headline on our local paper: Idaho's coronavirus surge overwhelms primary care clinics

11.11.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Halfway between truth and lies Permalink to this item

Early morning read today was Rebecca Solnit, something bloggish that doesn't pop right into search. Her personal domain (with a glorious homepage splash, I should update mine some day), rebeccasolnit.net, has an index page of essays, not frequently updated, but the heads and subheads tantalize. From April, 2019, the distant Before Time:

WHEN THE HERO IS THE PROBLEM
On Robert Mueller, Greta Thunberg, and Finding Strength in Numbers

It leads with a recent movie about an Icelandic eco-saboteur... But anyway, didn't she used to blog? She's not there in my blogroll, so if so, maybe she moved on. She has a raft of books, the NYT reviews them, she's a columnist for The Guardian, why should she blog, too? She's been publicly excoriated [not linking] as "a bit predictable and a bit dull" with "increasing banality," which, I'm feeling a lot of projection there, but who knows? Sometimes assignments produce poor writing, sometimes it springs up all on its own. Not all criticism is worthwhile. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

Anyway, Solnit also has 176,000 + 1 followers for her Facebook page, which looks a lot like blogging, and is replete with politics if you like that sort of thing (and fair warning if you don't), where she posted this item less than 4 days ago, which means my god it was hard to track that down to find the link to it.

"The middle ground is not halfway between Nazis and antiracists. The reasonable position is not a compromise between rapists and feminists, slaveowners and abolitionists, Natives and General Crook. The truth is not midway between the liar and the truthteller. That has to be a factor in all those calls for reaching out and unity. ...

"The people who were harmed don't have to reach out to those who did the harming. The people who told the truth don't need to make liars feel better about themselves or what they said. ...

"We don't have to hate them either, but we don't have to protect them from the consequences of their choices or sell out our principles for their comfort. When you stand on the ground of truth and justice, let others find their way to you. If you stand firm, many will in the end. Not everyone will; that does not change what truth and justice are."

Speaking of truth and justice, the New York Times Called Officials in Every State, and guess what? No one had anything to report in the way of voter fraud that affected the results.

"The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome."

Says there, 45 states responded directly; for four others, "the Times spoke to other statewide officials or found public comments from secretaries of state; none reported any major voting issues." And then there's Texas. Ah, Texas. (Which, btw, was called early for +rump.)

"Statewide officials in Texas did not respond to repeated inquiries. But a spokeswoman for the top elections official in Harris County, the largest county in Texas with a population greater than many states, said that there were only a few minor issues and that “we had a very seamless election.” On Tuesday, the Republican lieutenant governor in Texas, Dan Patrick, announced a $1 million fund to reward reports of voter fraud."

That's right, a million dollar bounty for reports of voter fraud. I'm sure there will be plenty of Texans (and non-Texans) ready to respond to that chance.

Meanwhile the spotlight is on Georgia, not because of a narrow win for the Democrat for president, but because their (likely) two runoffs for US Senate seats will decide the future of everything; will we be 50-50 with Kamala Harris Queen of the Senate, or something less, and Mitch McConnell reigning forth?

Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, authorized a hand recount of the state’s election today. Five million-ish votes! “It will be a heavy lift,” he said, but imagines it can be done by the Nov. 20 deadline to certify the state's vote. Not that it matters in the presidential race: Biden already has 279 electoral votes, and the win.

But it keeps Agent Orange from his death rattle a while longer, a fake excuse for more high-level looting and sabotage before the final hammer falls. A dark winter is coming for the president* and his crime family.

9.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Winding down Permalink to this item

Watching Jon Oliver's post-election LAST WEEK TONIGHT encouraged me to look closer at the spam buckets, from which I've already deleted a lot of crazy stuff. One had nothing from Republicans, but the other had some comedic material. Not a lot, I seem to have flushed away a lot of it already.

Politically Correcter, with a garbled latin tagline features links to a website, such as a Thursday cable news recap: 'IMPEACH THE POLLSTERS!" and "Meet 5 MAGA Patriots Who Went Viral And Changed America."

CA-48 Congressional race in process

Michelle Steel (which I read as an attempt to fake "Michael Steele" at first, having just watched the former RNC Chair talking to Larry Wilmore, also TVish worth watching) is apparently running for Final Battle and has a Recount Fund she'd like you to chip in to. Literally, that's what the buttons say. "CHIP IN $10" and "CHIP IN $25" and on up to "OTHER". She's out west, the O.C. of CA-48, with a lot of ocean front property, and where they call lower 60s "cold." She doesn't actually look to need any money, with a 1.8% margin with more than 98% of the vote counted (but hmm, not yet called).

Breakfast with Boris trolls with the question "Do you think all legal votes should be counted?" There's a Judicial Watch video potpourri, "The Longer it Takes to Finalize Vote Counts, the Higher the Chance of Votes Being Manipulated," how the "DOJ Should Step in IMMEDIATELY!" and Tom Fitton's weekly update on the "2020 Election Crisis."

I'm sure Press Corp in Alexandria is a reliable source? Unless it's fake media. They say "Soros-funded organizations have assisted with election security in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan," obviously cause for extreme alarm. ("If you thought the sheer brazenness of the Big Cheat was galling, brace yourself for the Great Certification Scam that comes next.") "Sidney Powell unveils Trump legal strategy," be still our hearts. [Update: It didn't quite add up.]

Greg Sargent's opinion piece for WaPo on how much damage he might still do on the way out mentions the AP report of what officials say: The Bogus Fraud Claims Are All About Giving Trump An Off-Ramp. In kindness, we should let him ride an escalator; you know how nasty ramps can be.

"That’s extraordinary: Trump allies are claiming in many high-profile forums that the lawfully cast votes of millions of Americans are illegitimate, largely to create space for him to process his rage and grief over losing."

Which should make it very easy to follow Jay Rosen's advice to the news media to "keep a silent eye on it. Don't amplify. Don't be led by the lurid. De-escalate," and so on.

Speaking of the lurid, and lawyers from the crypt, I don't know why Borat Subsequent Movefilm didn't do the whole job, but the Saturday wrap party turned out to be as reliably improbable as the whole four seasons of The Trump Show, beggaring parody. Well, almost beggaring parody, there was this:

Correction: The press conference that the White House announced would be held “at the Ritz” will actually take place next to the Ritz Crackers endcap-display in the snack food aisle of the Wawa at 7912 Roosevelt Boulevard. pic.twitter.com/N81eXl2a1w

— Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) November 7, 2020

Of course, this is serious. The Washington Post put the review from Dan Zak and Karen Heller in their "Style" section, appropriately enough. A lede for the ages:

PHILADELPHIA — "The end came in all the places you’d expect, in all the ways you’d expect, with all the people you’d expect.

"When news broke Saturday that Donald Trump’s reign was ending, the president was on a golf course that he owns in Virginia, playing his last round as a non-loser. In Washington, about 125 of his worshipful supporters gathered on the stoop of the Supreme Court to “stop the steal,” then circumnavigated the U.S. Capitol seven times, because that’s how the Israelites conquered Jericho, according to the Book of Joshua. And a pair of Trump’s most loyal surrogates made a defiant stand on the gravelly backside of a landscaping business in an industrial stretch of Northeast Philadelphia, near a crematorium and an adult-video store called Fantasy Island, along State Road, which leads — as being associated with Trump sometimes does — to a prison."

You must read the whole thing. "As Joe Biden marched slowly to victory last week, the Trump Train jackknifed." Steve Bannon. Matt Schlapp. Ted Cruz. BEER BBQ FREEDOM guy. And also in Philadelphia:

New Jersey resident Edward X. Young wore a button that said “Barron 2052,” referring to the president’s 14-year-old son. “I will never accept Joe Biden,” said Young, a horror-movie actor whose titles include “Maggots,” “Mold!” and “Gerry the Psychopath.”

Kimberly Guilfoyle told the truth at the RNC this summer!

Still from C-Span at Four Seasons Total Landscaping

8.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Purple mountain majesties Permalink to this item

Zoom church today started and ended with instrumental version of "America," with which some of the participants sang along. Seeing Michael McFaul's observation that "most Americans are purple" in regard to policy issues brought my headline to mind. "That this fact is inconvenient for more polarized elites, interest groups, and media outlets does not make it untrue."

It's not that polarization workers find it inconvenient, so much as the understood resistance they work to overcome. Healthy people do not, generally, thrive on conflict. They can deal with conflict to get work done. But manufacturing conflict is not in most job descriptions.

Fir in first snow

One thing I didn't get around to discussing in yesterday's post (Liminal time and space) before the ~ahem~ distraction, is that very few of those county bubbles are legitimately "blue" or "red." Washington D.C. is one that would be legit blue, 90+% for the blue guy. The reddest of the red-guy states were only +43 (Wyoming) or +30-something (W.Va., Okla., ND, and Idaho). That's a lot, but it ain't +87.

Forty-eight of the states and D.C. have a winner-take-all deal, so no matter how mixed they may be inside, the result comes out one or the other, guaranteeing that a map (or even a binary-colored cartogram) will make us look more divided than we actually are. Nebraska splits its five votes to throw a bone if you win a congressional district. Their vote was 58.5/39.1% for Trump over Biden, from which they deal out electors, 4 and 1. Maine's vote split 53.5/43.4% to Biden, and electors 3 and 1, so those two splitters washed out the winner-take-most math. "Coincidentally."

Maybe those winner-take-most splits are enough incentive to make a campaign stop, but there's not much point to going to the Ruby Red and True Blue states, the Idahos, and Californias, unless it's to collect contributions they can use in the swing states that will matter.

Once it comes to victor dividing spoils, none in living memory have been as transparently partisan as Trump has been, to the point of murderous withholding of pandemic help for, and sending unmarked quasi military against the "blue" states.

Reuniting won't be easy. Just leveling the playing field some will take a lot of work. In the meantime, create-our-own-reality leader and team that banked on Covid-19 going away "like a miracle" is also pushing fact-deprived points of view, increasingly unhinged conspiracy theories, and fraud guarantee reverse hooks.

Former insider Matthew Sheffield provides a good primer in a Twitter thread as to what "conservative journalism" (as opposed to "journalism") comprises. And what it doesn't comprise. "Good faith" is the missing link, in Sheffield's telling. "Journalism is supposed to portray reality" on the one hand, while "conservative journalism" is an effort to advance the cause.

"Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, and a bevvy of GOP elected officials have no problem parroting unverified rumors as fact because conservative journalism is not about supporting conservatives, not about finding facts.

"I tried for over a decade to inculcate some standards of independence and professionalism among conservative writers but my efforts made me enemies, especially when I argued that the GOP should be neutral on religion instead of biased toward Christians.

"I began work on a manuscript in 2012 fearing that Mitt Romney would lose his election because conservatives had not learned how politics actually works and that we should adapt to serve public needs and make peace with secular people.

"I showed my manuscript to several people who I thought were my friends because I wanted to get the perspective of religious conservatives. Instead of helping me, some of them began trying to expel me from the conservative movement."

My own suspicion is that they spout accusations of fraud and cheating so liberally because that's what they would do if they had the chance. The projection-tell that Donald Trump excels at; his every accusation a revelation about who he is, what he has done, is doing, would do. Fraud Guarantee. The way back is to resist the polarization. (Somehow. That's the hard part.)

"The tens of millions of people who vote Republican are not deplorable. They are misled. And the mocking and tribalistic coverage that lefty media often engage in only makes things worse. Only love can defeat hate."

Margaret Sullivan gives it a go from her longtime experience in legit media ("that subset I like to call the 'reality-based press'"), in a Washington Post column: The media never fully learned how to cover Trump. But they still might have saved democracy.

"From the beginning, TV news far too often took his public rallies and speeches as live feeds, letting his misinformation pollute the ecosystem. And we took far too long to call his falsehoods what they often were: lies. And far too long to call his worldview what it clearly was: racist. Instead, we danced around — for years — with euphemisms like “misstatements” and “racially tinged comments.”

"Maybe worst of all, we employed the time-honored method of treating both sides of a controversy as roughly equal. This might have been fine at an earlier moment of history. But it was almost criminally misleading in the Trump era, particularly when it came to the coverage of his Republican enablers in Washington."

And she refers back to the 2012 classic by Mann and Ornstein, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. Cut to their chase:

"A balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality."

Sullivan gives well-earned shout-outs to ProPublica, the New York Times (for finally giving us some of the detail from Trump's taxes), David Fahrenthold, and Elle Reeve.

"Without the reality-based press, whatever its flaws and shortcomings, we would be utterly lost."

While we're on that subject, have you heard the one about how we put a guy who doesn't believe in evolution in charge of the pandemic response? Matthew Sheffield's week-ago piece on Right Wing Watch: Far-Right Creationists Are Setting Trump’s Virus Response. What they don't believe can kill you.

7.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fore! Permalink to this item

Evan Tucci photo, Trump leaving the White House to golf, Nov. 7

This chunk of the Live Updates has a quintessential story-in-a-headline: President Trump gets the news while heading to a golf outing.

Yeah, I noticed the golf shoes... Here's (part of) Evan Vucci's shot this morning, in the Omaha World-Herald, leaving our White House with his golfin' MAGA cap with the flag and the 45 and the spikes. For the ride in the hard car. Recreation on the taxpayer dime, to "Trump National," 'natch, juicing the business while he still can.

Turns out the Big Press Con at Four Seasons Total Landscaping did not actually happen, so we don't even know if that was ever for real. Like so much else of the last four years.

Update: Ed Burmila's Twitter summary of the non-event is over the top, but do read down the comments for more actual details. Not going to spoil anything other than to quote the preamble of one: "ZOMG, it gets worse."

And, the more direct narrative.

This Just In Permalink to this item

While enjoying the Saturday morning radio shows, Tamara Shapiro's Open Range Radio wrapping up with Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," and Roy Orbison's "It's Over" coming up to the 10:00 hour. Carl Scheider segued into his Private Idaho with the Youngbloods, "Get Together," and we were floating into one more beautiful day on the cusp of fall turning to winter and shouting out to the DJs on Twitter, I saw Emily Walton's tweet something, something Four Seasons Landscaping thing, and I'm wondering whaaa, and I checked the news. Kaboom:

The front page of the NYT just now

Liminal time and space Permalink to this item

Election Day was its second-earliest this year. It can be as late as November 8th, so here we are with the vast majority of the results in and counted and the ultimate result clear enough to all but those who will not see. It could be... Election Day tomorrow, instead of the 3rd, imagine that.

The "Tuesday after the first Monday in November" pattern that made sense to someone, somehow. Of course, that's been asked and answered: Congress, in 1845, rationalizing an even crazier idea: "states were allowed to hold elections any time they pleased within a 34-day period before the first Wednesday in December." I don't have to tell you that earlier system "had a few crucial flaws" at this point, but "late voting states could game the early results" is not the first thing that came to my mind.

We can't really inhabit the minds of people from 175 years ago, before but imagine most of us working in farming and polling places far enough away that it took "at least a day to vote" for many, such that "lawmakers needed to allow a two-day window for Election Day." Substituting civic religion for the Sabbath one day a year was "impractical"? Says there Delaware, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and the territory of Puerto Rico have elevated it to a "civic holiday," as it should be. If we don't all go to a better, longer, earlier, system that we can somehow make convenient, bulletproof(!), secure, inclusive, accessible.

It's an easy forecast that this won't be fixed anytime soon. Our 50-some varied experiments will continue to diverge in senseless and sometimes duplicitous ways. A poor choice of day-pattern is not the worst thing in our system right now.

A friend pointed to engaging-data.com with a spatial/demographic question for her friends: "Would citizens be more realistic about who lives and votes in this country if we used this style of map all the time?" They created a county-level map of the 2016 results with your choice of circles for land, and circles for people, which is to say, a cartogram. With or without county overlap. We might not have known we needed that until we saw it. With "no county overlap," the side-by-side of 2016:

Side-by-side engaging-data.com views for 2016

From a geosychronous distance, the sparsely populated West stands out (as well as Gray can compete with Blue and Red). It looks more blue than red to me, which of course it was. Hard to know whether I'm seeing the 4.6% of 65,853,514 vs. 62,984,828 graphically, or the "big circles vs. interstitial red" effect. Some of both? Oh, it says "total area of each color" is more divided than the total popular vote was, because it's showing "winner take all" at the county level. That came out 54.5 to 45.5 by numbers they used, almost 20% more blue.

I love the expressiveness of cartograms, and I appreciate the wealth of interactive tools smart people are creating, even if this particular one is slightly more eye candy than informative. They've extended this one with "preliminary 2020 results," doesn't say exactly when this week, but in any case, the "population circles / no county overlap" views are so nearly identical, flipping back and forth between them (with slow animation showing red-purple-blue transitions) it was hard to see what/where the differences were. I put them side by side to compare... but given the "preliminary results" aspect, and the quirky county-wise bias that's unrelated to the (equally, but differently) quirky state-wise bias of the Electoral College, I'm not going to roll that in here.

Still, since lots of people do show results by county, I can enjoy the striking image of population distribution. The vast majority of the country look at this and see where they live in a sea of bubbles. The people west of that line west of the Mississippi have a different reality. I grew up in the midwestern bubblesea, moved to the wide open spaces 4½ decades ago. The political climate sucks, but I like the wide open spaces, and the amenities of a vibrant city in the middle of it.

Engaging Data has also posted a state-level cartogram, sizing the states based on electoral votes. For the 2020 version, they've called our five slow states the way they're headed, to 306 Blue, 232 Red. 57% of the votes from 38% of the geography.

6.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still talking about Covid-19 Permalink to this item

NY Times datagraphics

On the verge of the 4th of July holiday, when we were running at the highest-ever 40,000+ cases/day, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the Senate that the US could see 100,000 coronavirus cases per day. "Not in total control right now," he said there in the middle of summer. "We're going in the wrong direction." We kept going in that direction. Four months later, his forecast came true.

Wednesday, 107,872 cases. Thursday, 121,504 new cases. It looks like the 7-day average will exceed 100,000/day in a moment. The curve is bending upward, meaning the increase in daily cases is accelerating. The daily case count is up 54% in the last two weeks. We'll be at ten million total cases by the end of the weekend or so.

Idaho is setting records too. Middle of last month, we had our first 1,000+ day, 1,324 on Oct. 13, when the running average was "only" 643 cases a day. Lots of 1,000+ days since, including the last three, at 1,255, 1,287, 1,214, and the 7-day average up to 973/day.

Now that you're done voting, have you got your flu shot?! Get it.

Update:
That didn't take long.

"We were getting ready to win this election" Permalink to this item

First thing on my playlist this morning was Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. ("Oh baby don't it feel like heaven right now...") Then on to the best morning read, Heather Cox Richardson's Letter; the +rump version substitutes "flailing" for "waiting."

"He planned to challenge the counting of the mail-in ballots in the courts, all the while telling his supporters that Democrats were stealing his victory. If he could gin up enough chaos, he could buy time to throw the results into doubt and, perhaps, get the Supreme Court to enter the fight. There, he hoped for victory with the help of the three justices who owed him their seats."

The 3 justices who owed him his seats, or the three that had their fingers in the 2000 election monkey-wrenching? Not the same three! Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett are all a bit tainty when it comes to free and fair elections. The Chief Justice led the charge against the Voting Rights Act, subverting the will of both the people and the Congress to say "we've solved the puzzle!" when no, we haven't.

"The unraveling of Trump’s plan to claim victory has been mesmerizing."

Once again, it's a hell of a read. With my emphasis:

"Trump legal adviser Harmeet Dhillon told Lou Dobbs on the Fox News Channel: “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court- of which the president has nominated three justices- to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.” Former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon went further, calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray to be beheaded “as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone.” Twitter banned Bannon permanently.

"Tonight, Trump addressed his sliding fortunes with a statement that will go down in the annals of the American presidency alongside Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech trying to regain control of the runaway Watergate story. In front of a wall of flags, speaking a low voice and tripping over his words at times, he rambled through a wild attack on the election, claiming it was being stolen from him. MSNBC cut away from his remarks almost immediately, noting they were lies; ABC News made it about five minutes. Fact-checker Daniel Dale tweeted: “I’ve read or watched all of Trump’s speeches since 2016. This is the most dishonest speech he’s ever given.

The AP's fact check was in our morning newspaper, leading with "a torrent of fabricated accusations ... in an audacious attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the US election." Richardson:

"It felt Shakespearean, like the desperate attempt of a man who has lost control of the narrative to try to claw it back, even as we all know it’s gone beyond all recovery. As CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, it was “sad and truly pathetic…. That is the most powerful person in the world, and we see him like an obese turtle on his back, flailing in the hot sun, realizing his time is over. But he just hasn’t accepted it, and he wants to take everybody down with him, including this country.”

(In fairness to turtles, I don't think they even get "obese," do they? It's just, you know, their shape, which I'm sure other turtles find attractive.) The part about setting up supporters to believe a lie stuck out at me, An early bit stuck out at me, from a recent family member's certainty that a Biden election would be the end of democracy, because... many people are saying.

Those lawsuits "are frivolous and keep getting thrown out," but that hardly matters. They're about "creat[ing] a narrative that makes his supporters believe something that is not true."

"They are not righting a wrong; they are trying to set Trump’s supporters up to believe a lie... it is all about creating a narrative."

Speaking of narratives, USA Today has assembled an interactive one of the 4,095 +rump lawsuits they've tracked down "so far." Not up to date for the 2020 election, it doesn't look like. The Guardian says the current wave is not going well for president.

“They all seem to have no merit whatsoever,” said Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who focuses on elections. “I think the goal is to sow discord and distrust and undermine the people and the integrity of the election. I think giving them additional air time just plays into that theory.”

And here it is, your Moment of Zen pic.twitter.com/0Dwd32AAs5

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) November 6, 2020

5.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shout-out to Daniel Dale Permalink to this item

First at the Toronto Star, and now at CNN, Daniel Dale has been the busiest man in journalism, fact-checking the Tangerine Zeppelin day in and day out, indefatigably. Yamiche Alcindor gave him a Twitter shoutout for this headline yesterday evening, which does indeed say it all: Fact check: Almost everything Trump has said after Election Day is wrong

"President Donald Trump spent much of the year laying the groundwork for the strategy of concerted dishonesty he has deployed in the hours after Election Day.

"First, months ago, he began falsely portraying mail-in ballots as rife with fraud. Second, he falsely claimed that Democratic governors who don't like him are in charge of ballot-counting. Third, he falsely argued that there is something nefarious and even perhaps illegal about the normal practice of counting votes after Election Day.

"All of this nonsense, the dozens of voting-related lies we've had to debunk over and over and over, appeared to be in service of this current moment—a close election in which he could try to turn the seeds of doubt he had systematically planted in supporters' minds into full-blown rejection of his possible defeat.

"Trump launched the plan into action in the early hours of Wednesday morning, delivering a wildly inaccurate White House address in which he baselessly alleged he had already won and baselessly alleged a fraud was being perpetrated against him. Then he retreated to Twitter -- on which almost everything said for the rest of the day was wrong...."

I appreciate the directness of it. Falsely, falsely, falsely, nonsense, lies, wildly inaccurate, baselessly, baselessly, wrong. False. False. Once more: entirely false. The "especially feeble bit of deception" in "claim[ing], for Electoral Vote purposes."

And "as so often over the last four years," aided by a platoon of unreliable sources from the swampy "ecosystem of pro-Trump misinformation": Eric Trump, Kayleigh McEnany, Bill Stepien, Matt Schlapp, Rudy Giuliani.

"Dishonesty has been a defining feature of the Trump presidency from the start, and it was a central component of his re-election campaign."

Yes, it gets repetitive, but repetition is what he's countering. Thank you for your tireless effort these past years, Mr. Dale.

Now, the attempted theft phase Permalink to this item

Details of Arlington, Va. scene from Moneymaker's photo

Deep breaths, patience, while we wait to see which side of sociopathy our gerryrigged, gerrymandered, and antidemocratic system comes down. The widescale repudiation so many millions of us were hoping for did not happen on Tuesday, nor Wednesday, but the creeping expectation is playing out as many predicted.

It was yesterday evening's Newshour (or was it the comedy shows?) before we saw Don Drumpf's sorry Election Night performance before his claque at the White House, pathetically whining about how things looked so great for him, but then more ballots showed up. Now, as "long-telegraphed," +rump is turning to the courts as his options narrow. A "barrage" of lawsuits, one teaser put it. As one must do, given the many jurisdictions that participate in our complicated electoral process. WaPo went with "blitz" for their Election 2020 teaser, and the disappointing mundane article headline, "closes in / race narrows" after the jump.

Droves of lawyers. I hope they're charging him a lot of money. I hope he's burned through all the donors' money and has to use his own. Share the wealth, Donny.

I'm looking at Anna Moneymaker's photo, captioned "President Trump spoke to campaign workers in Arlington, Va.," with its eerie reflection of Jared Kushner and Kayleigh McEnany, and one of the True Believers I don't recognize over boss man's right shoulder, unmasked, while most everyone else is sensibly covered. Most with MAGA and TRUMP labels. One in the back has a flag-as-neck-gaiter, very Talibanesque.

Then the scene in Maricopa County, Arizona, Stormtrumpers waving big flags, including the one with +rump as Rambo. The more preposterous, the better, it seems. "Surrounding" the facility in Phoenix calling for what, who knows? Stop counting? Keep counting? (Biden is ahead there, and his lead narrowing, so it should be COUNT EV'RY VOTE, but there's one too many syllables in that.

With Wisconsin and Michigan in the bag for Biden (Yaaaay!), it comes down to five states. Biden's ahead in two that could get him from 253 to the threshold, of 270 for the win. A lot of smart people are talking about Georgia and Pennsylvania swinging to Biden's winner-take-all, which would make the Electoral College math bigger, which is no mean feat.

WaPo scorebanner this morning

Arizona's 11 votes look to be headed Biden's way. Next update "late morning or early afternoon." Also Nevada's 6, update "around noon Eastern," a narrow Biden lead and "only Democratic-leaning late mail and provisional ballots to be tabulated." Georgia's margin is 0.4% with 4% of the vote estimated to be counted, a 60-40 split for Biden would give him 16 electoral votes out of the South. More results this morning. In North Carolina, Biden needs two-thirds of the remaining 5% to be counted. They accept mailed ballots postmarked by Election Day for another week! And Pennsylvania, a 20 vote prize with 1.4% +rump margin as I write, estimated 11% of the vote yet to count, most from where the Biden voters are. "Biden needs to win close to two-thirds of the remaining votes to win the state. Officials expect to release more results Thursday morning."

You might say TODAY IS THE DAY.

Update: Not sure if I missed the key word or it was changed, but Nevada's next update is around noon eastern Friday, so maybe TOMORROW is the day. In the meantime, mid-afternoon, I turned on the radio in the car moments before Joe Biden said a few words, and I didn't hear enough intro to know if the result had been determined. It was quickly obvious that we're still in the count, but I was struck by how absolutely presidential he sounded. Calm. Deliberate. Rational. Constructive. Succinct. It's been a long time since we heard that tone. It sounded very, very good.

After he was done, the commentators on NPR mentioned that the current president hasn't been seen since his unhinged Election Night presentation to his claque at the White House, saying a variety of crazy things including "frankly, we did win." His MIA status could explain his campaign manager Bill Stepien's weird statement earlier today that +rump "is alive and well." (Also, I see that he's the maskless dude over the +rumpian shoulder, above.)

In fairness, Stepien probably meant alive and well in the contest, which isn't true either, but it's the sort of thing you might say just now. More reasonable than the Tuesday night potus-whoppers.

4.Nov.2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Day After Permalink to this item

Red/blue splits for President, and Ada Co. Commission No. 1

Idaho's reliably red statewide majorities were undisturbed, all 44 counties having reported before sunrise. 64-33 for Trump over Biden. Jim Risch gets another six years of paid retirement in the Senate. Ruby-red ID-01 returns quiety man Russ Fulcher with a 2-1 margin, and Mike Simpson returns with almost as much of ID-02's vote.

The first blue legislative seat down the stack is in district 5, David Nelson, prevailing over Dan Foreman by 205 votes, out of 25,000 cast. After that the scroll is red, red, red until you get to district 15, where the tireless campaigner Steve Berch retained his seat by brute force personal door-knocking and 600-some votes (out of 23,000). The more red wave until LD 26, centered in Ketchum and Sun Valley. The Bundy family camp-follower Eric Parker's challenge to Michelle Stennet failed, happily. LD 29 has 2 out of 3 Dems, and that's it.

Ada county's leadership did not fare well. The new term will bring a 2-1 majority for the Republicans in the Ada County Commission, and they did not send their best people. Putting GOP hacks Ryan Davidson and Rod Beck in charge of actually important stuff (with 6 figure salaries, to boot) will be a hell of an experiment.

Pickup signs Wednesday

In the races that may have the most direct effect on our quality of life, the Ada County Highway District, our friend Jim Hansen was comfortably re-elected, but longtime ACHD staffer and political newcomer Emilie Jackson-Edney lost, 60-40. In our own district (one of five), the unofficial results show Alexis Pickering, ahead by TWO VOTES over long-time commissioner and higher-office aspirant Rebecca Arnold. 15,735 to 15,733. In case you were wondering if every vote matters.

Ada County's "live results" allows you to drill down to precincts and choose your proxy for a red-blue map. This one shows the +rump-Biden split, sorry to say Agent Orange's majority prevailed in the barren south, and west of our county. The interactive for the presidential race doesn't work too well though, with 22 also-rans, more than half of them with zero votes. (Libertarian Jo Jorgenson came in 3rd in the county, with 5,000-some votes. Kanye West 1,172, and on down the stack. Rocky "Rocky" De La Fuente racked up 356, and Shawn W. Howard beat the zeroes by one.) Still, I can see that my precinct went 58.7% for Biden, only 37.2% for the incumbent. (That's about the same percentage we put toward Ryan Davidson for County Commission, and retaining Rebecca Arnold on the ACHD, the fraction who will vote for a Republican, no matter how bad a candidate the party puts forward.)

Election Day 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Over the White House

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007