Gerry Mander for president

It’s hard to say exactly when American democracy died. But June 27th, 2019 might be remembered as the day the U.S. Supreme Court drove a stake in its chest to make damned sure it stayed dead.

In an ideologically split, 5-4 vote, the Supremes struck down previous Federal court rulings that various state-level partisan gerrymandering efforts are unconstitutional.

Once upon a time the topic of gerrymandering—the engineering of political districts for electoral advantage—was wonky and uninteresting. The practice (and the etymology of our name for it), rolls back to the early 1800s, which only makes it that much more tedious. Massachusetts governor Eldridge Gerry apparently inaugurated this black art, divvying up state senate districts in favor of his presciently titled Democratic-Republican Party.

I call that prescient because modern-day gerrymandering is both bane and tool for both our major parties, and they’ve turned into a procedural stain that is (or at least should be) anything but tedious.

Yes, the GOP is the 21st-century villain in this story, but never doubt that the Dems’ hands are dirty too. They spent most of post-WWII years carving up districts for their own benefit, so no one should be surprised that when their opposition began gaining control of state legislatures, they’d do the same only more so.

And likewise, with demographers reporting a dwindling conservative base, we can forecast that the Democrats will one day rise again, and will immediately resume their own gerrymandering. This pendulum is poisonous, but it swings on.

Our only hope to break that cycle was the judiciary, and they just utterly failed us.

So welcome to the old normal, newly entrenched. Forget Gerry Mander for president; he’s dictator for life.

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Here come the Deepfakes

At some point, the onward trudge of technology has taken on more of a steamroll presentation, and much of the nextgen whatever-it-is brings far less progress to society and much more churn. It’s like the rote Silicon Valley diktat, “disrupt things,” has become the marching orders for a doomsday cult. They don’t even need to pretend they’re building consumer ware anymore. They’re hacking the culture for no better reason than to see what might happen—and they’re absolutely sedate with the understanding that we know that’s what they’re doing.

How else can you explain the emergence of deepfakes — the application of AI and CGI to create ersatz video that’s hard (but not yet impossible) to tell from the real thing? So far we’ve seen scarily convincing videos of Zuckerburg, Obama, and others. Match the images with the work of a decently imitative voice actor, tweak the peaks and valleys with ProTools, and you’ve coded yourself carte blanche to make public figures and politicians say and do whatever you please.

Well, almost. The tricksters haven’t quite yet overcome the Uncanny problem; there’s still something indefinably, inherently repellent about deepfakes, that can and should trigger a healthy dose of doubt. Unless of course they’re saying something you want to believe they’d say.

(And this is completely beside the point, but let’s take a sec to recognize what an embarrassingly stupid descriptor “deepfake” is. When did the tech sector  get so bad at naming their output? Right about the time they gave us the ‘Internet of Things’? Dreck. Blech.)

We won’t stay in the uncanny valley forever though. The tech will get better, and inside a year we’ll see ginned up e-kompromat that’ll be next to impossible to debunk. That’s when the politics of scandal gets interesting.

It’s also when American society divides further along its natural fault lines: some of us will be all too ready to believe that Hillary finally owned up to her awful antics in pizza-parlor basements, and the rest of us will be permanently scarred from repeated, vicious face-palming.

The law of unintended consequences comes into play, too. (Or maybe, ‘unexpected’ consequences, because who the hell knows what anyone intends anymore?) There’s a certain class of politician and public figure who’s going to benefit from the proliferation of deepfakes. It’s an ever-ready alibi that frees your inner Nazi. So go ahead and tell a smoky back room full of donors that Hitler actually had some pretty good ideas—one of the waiters might get it on their phone but that’s okay. Just go on Hannity and swear it was a deepfake, and all will be well.

In fact, can’t we start doing that retroactively? How long will it be until Trump is retconning the grab-em-by-the-pussy tape? He already floated a couple trial balloons that it’s not actually him on that tape (after initially admitting it, of course)—and that was at least 18 months before deepfakes entered the cultural consciousness. When will he circle back to that idea? Oh, right about the time it becomes a reelection issue….

So, yeah. Deepfakes are here. They’re not yet pulling at the threads of society, but they soon will be.

As far as I can see we really have one defense, and it’s not coincidentally the same defense we have for the entirety of the muck that big tech and the media and every stuffed shirt and talking head throws at us these days:

Believe nothing. Doubt everything.

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For the arts – challenge yourself

How about this? Hats off to artist Denise Cerro and her band of merry creators, for their revolving assemblage challenge (and many bonus points awarded for their use of recycled materials).

Does this not inspire? You don’t have to think of yourself as an artist to create art—perhaps you just need to get yourself started. A group challenge like this could get you and your cohort off and running. You’d rather fly solo? No probs. Set your own parameters…maybe repurposed materials, all primary colors, must incorporate your pet’s name…the weirder the better, because you will amaze yourself with your creativity. Go on, give it a try.

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In memoriam: General George S. Patton

Since 2011, this site has observed Memorial Day by saluting the ordinary yet heroic soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who served and sacrificed, and died for their country.

It must be said though that many of our heroic dead were, and are, quite extraordinary, and their stories must also be told.

Leading that list is perhaps the most larger-than-life general officer the United States has ever produced. George S. Patton was very much a man for his times, because his time encompassed two world wars. Had he been granted omniscience to view the great sweep of time, I’d posit he’d want to live and serve exactly when he did: honing his tactical and command experience during the First World War, and perfecting them both during the Second. And further, I think he’d want to die when he did: on the cusp of a strange, decades-long non-shooting war that he’d neither condone nor understand.

A career military man, Patton entered the world stage as a junior office in France in 1917. Originally a member of General Pershing’s staff, then an infantry commander, he eventually found his calling in the novel milieu of tank warfare. Ascending to his first tank-corps command in the spring of 1918, he found that he was one of the only Americans who’d actually completed tank training. When his unit took delivery of a trainload of armor, it was left to him to personally drive them off the rail cars.

A brevetted lieutenant colonel by then, he oversaw his brigade’s training and led them into several battles leading up to the Argonne offensive in September 1918. On the 26th of that month, near the French town of Cheppy, he was shot in the leg while leading an attack on a German machine-gun position. While he was recuperating, the November 11th armistice was signed, and the war was over.

Patton spent the interwar years building and refining his ideal American tank corps. He helped write the Army’s manual of tank operations, consulted on new armor designs, and initiated tank crewman training courses at Fort Meade, Fort Myer, and Fort Riley. As a full colonel, he came to the attention of Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. Sensing an impending second European war, Marshall short-listed Patton for promotion to general, but kept him as a regimental commander, thus a colonel, until hostilities broke out.

The United States military was largely demobilized in the years between world wars, but a few forward thinkers in uniform, including George Patton, did their best to prepare for the conflict they knew was on the horizon. In the months after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Patton helped to hone the nascent armored corps and ready it for combat. In October, 1940 he was given his first star—Brigadier General Patton took acting command of the 2nd Armored Division, and the following April he was promoted to major general, and was made permanent division commander.

His fame grew between then and America’s entry into the war that December, and it was probably during this time that the Wehrmacht general staff took notice. The German military machine never really understood the American democratic model, and it had an almost willful blindness to the notion of civilian control over the military. They couldn’t fathom how a soldier like Patton could be hobbled by civic and political forces. That would prove to be their fatal blind spot.

They understood Patton himself, though, and were concordantly respectful. They knew as well as anyone that America would be entering the war, and they sought to know their enemy. They knew that generals like Marshall and Eisenhower, though formidable, wouldn’t lead from the front, and that MacArthur would be in the east. They were certain that George Patton would be their main foe on the ground in Europe.

For nearly two years, from the first assaults in Morocco through to the invasion and occupation of Sicily, they were correct. Patton proved himself a consummate land-war tactician, winning far more battles than he lost. The invasion of northern Europe loomed, and Patton was as sure as the Germans were that he was destined to lead it.

What happened next was one of the oddest historical quirks on record, and only in retrospect can we know that it just might have won the war. Patton was a soldier, an officer, but he was never quite a gentleman. He was rash, he was impolitic, and he had a knack, off the battlefield, for doing exactly the wrong thing. He put himself in the doghouse repeatedly through careless remarks to the press or in speeches to civilian audiences. Then in August of 1943 he went too far.

He slapped the faces of two privates, both of them suffering from what we now know as PTSD. He called them cowards, and he ordered them back to the front lines.

That he’d be relieved of command for such actions was, again, incomprehensible to the Germans, so they convinced themselves that it had to be misinformation. When he was ordered back to England they were sure it was in preparation for the coming invasion.

Eisenhower was content to let them think that, and went on to pull off one of the most artful deceptions in the history of warfare. In June 1944 Allied forces landed in Normandy and began the drive towards Berlin. Patton was not with them. He’d been given nominal command of an army that didn’t exist—the so-called “Ghost Army.” Artists and model makers created a vast phantom force of canvas tanks and dummy soldiers, centered in the area of Dover, seemingly poised to strike across the Channel at the Pas de Calais.

A constant of amphibious warfare, since before the Persians invaded Athens, is that the defender’s best hope is to stop the invaders while their feet are still wet. The Second World War could have very well been lost on June 6th or June 7th, if the Germans had reinforced Normandy. But they concentrated their forces at Calais. Because that’s where they thought Patton would be.

Patton, of course, would regain battlefield command, leading his fabled Third Army through France and into Germany. They helped save the day during the Battle of the Bulge, joining the effort to turn back the final German offensive. They crossed the Rhine, fought southward through Bavaria, and crossed into Czechoslovakia, nearly making it to Prague, before the Germans surrendered on May 8th, 1945.

Patton hoped to transfer to the Pacific theater while the war with Japan still raged, but was instead made military governor in Munich. During his short post-war career, Patton managed to embarrass himself still more—courting controversy by telling an audience of Gold Star Mothers (mothers of American soldiers killed in action), that those who die on the battlefield are often “fools.” He was also criticized for keeping Nazi party politicians in Bavarian administrative posts.

Sometime between the end of the war and December 1945 he managed to complete his wartime memoirs. Others, including Eisenhower and Churchill, were to write their own histories of the war, but in many cases that took years. That Patton wrote his so quickly has to make you wonder if he sensed his end was near.

On December 8th 1945 General Patton was traveling in a staff car with a few others, in the Rhineland area of Germany. They were struck at low speed by a U.S. Army truck. Patton alone was injured.

That such a man could suffer such a prosaic death has spawned countless conspiracy theories. In truth, it was just rotten luck. At the moment of impact Patton turned around to say something to someone in the back seat. He was in an awkward, twisted position and the impact, though hardly forceful, caused his neck to strike the edge of a partition window. He both fractured and dislocated two cervical vertebrae.

For 12 days General Patton was paralyzed from the neck down. This led to heart failure and pulmonary edema. He died in his sleep on December 21st, the winter solstice.

When I say that I cannot envision what retirement might have looked like for George Patton, that could just be the myopia of historical hindsight. Or it could be an understanding that General Patton simply wasn’t made for retirement. It seems as though he wasn’t made for anything other than war.

General George Patton served his country in his singular fashion through two world wars, and in a way to help define that country as an unequaled military power through to a future he could scarcely have imagined. He did all that he could do, he did it well, and then he was gone. He was never a perfect man, but he very well might have been a perfect soldier, and the nation will always be in his debt.

Likewise we are in the debt of every man and woman, throughout our history, who served and sacrificed. Memorial Day is their day, and that makes it sacred.

Happy Memorial Day. Please don’t ever forget what this day is about.

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To impeach, or not to impeach?

Are we barreling toward the impeachment of a president? Should we be?

Impeachment is, as intended in our constitutional charter, the heavy artillery of checks and balances. It’s an unwieldy process by design: a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives starts the process, but then the Senate is required to hold a trial, with conviction (i.e. removal from office) requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote. To date, impeachment proceedings have been initiated against three presidents, two have been actually impeached, and none have been removed from office.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution not only defines the impeachment process, it also enumerates impeachable offenses…and in so doing throws up ambiguities that were (and are) probably necessary, but are maddening nonetheless.

The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Article II, Section 4)

Bribery? Clear enough, I suppose. Treason? Well, it’s a word bandied about enough (Trump tends to apply it against his political enemies), but it has the virtue of being the one and only crime defined by the Constitution: giving aid and comfort to the enemy during wartime. The United States last declared war in 1941, so contemporary acts of treason are vanishingly unlikely.

That leaves what is perhaps the most familiar phrase in this charge, high crimes and misdemeanors. It does not mean what most of us think it means.

The phrase in its entirety is inherited from English common law, and dates from at least the 14th century. High crimes are, explicitly, political crimes, or at least crimes committed in office by political officers.

Misdemeanors are not, in this context, the codified classification of infractions that rank somewhere between traffic offenses and felonies. They are what is literally suggested by the word: mis-demeanor, or bad behavior. That’s clearly vague, but it also clearly suggests that not just criminality is grounds for impeachment.

Why? Suppose a president locked himself in his room, and refused to come out. Suppose a president left the country, and refused to come back. These aren’t crimes, but they’d obviously prevent a president from discharging his duties. So they’re cause for impeachment.

Likewise, a president that impedes congressional investigation can be impeached. As can a president who refuses to work with the congress until those investigations are halted. These are impeachable offenses if 51 percent of the House of Representatives says they are.

So should they? I don’t envy that decision. There are pros and cons—perhaps most tellingly, Donald Trump wants the House to impeach. He recalls the failed attempt at removing Bill Clinton, and Clinton’s absolute surge in popularity as the process dragged on.

Their situations aren’t exactly analogous. Clinton was a lame duck by then (he was impeached by the House in December of 1998, and acquitted by the Senate in February 1999). It’s true that his party picked up seats during the 1998 mid-terms, which can probably be at least partly attributed to impeachment-backlash…but on the other hand his party went on to lose the White House. Trump is probably right that impeachment will fire up his base—but will it win him reelection? That’s probably a tad too optimistic on his part.

Perhaps the strongest pro-impeachment argument involves what it would do for the congressional investigations of the presidency. Attempts to stonewall on the turnover of documents and the availability of witnesses will be non-starters. The courts have unanimously upheld the power of Congressional discovery during impeachment proceedings, and not even this SCOTUS would dare fiddle with that. Trump’s taxes would be an open book, and the Mueller Report would get unredacted. (One wonders if Trump has thought about this.)

Enticing as all that is, the overarching reason not to impeach is this: the Senate will acquit him. Unless and until offenses are uncovered that will turn even the MAGA-hats against Trump, the GOP-controlled Senate will not just vote the Articles down, they’ll cry aggrievement the whole time they’re doing it. Trump will play the victim, and in turn he’ll claim victory and declare himself absolved.

Since that would likely closely coincide with the 2020 elections, the outcome at the polls will hinge on who controls the messaging. The opposition might keep attention on the mis-demeanors that brought us to that juncture. Or Trump might gin up enough sympathy to pull off another electoral squeaker.

So who do you trust to prevail in that war of words? The party that consistently snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, or the con man who lives and dies by his brand image?

From a 30,000-foot view, impeachment sure looks like it is, or should be, an issue of national security, and indeed, national survival. Down here on the ground, though, it’s pure politics. These are politics that you don’t dare fuck up.

If/when Trump reaches a state of mental instability as to be an existential threat, then no doubt—no politics—he should be removed from office, and I think (I hope) even the Senate would be on board with that. But even the most impeachment-hungry among us has to recognize that’s not our present situation.

Impeachment? We’re just not there yet. Hold your nose, and let this play out a while longer.

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RIP Tim Conway (Dec. 15 1933 – May 14 2019)


This one hurts. Tim Conway hailed from my neck of the woods, got his start on local TV, and was a fixture on the comedy and variety shows that anchored TV in the seventies and eighties. He was one of the most improvisational, naturally funny people to ever walk this earth.

He died this morning in Southern California, aged 85. He recently suffered from a neurological disorder, thus his family is asking for donations in his name to the Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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RIP Doris Day (April 3 1922 – May 13 2019)

A genuine legend passed away today. Doris Day died at home in California, aged 97 years, having recently suffered a serious case of pneumonia.

Singer, actor, activist—she was not only one of our last veterans of Hollywood’s golden years, she was also one of its undisputed superstars.

She led off with a singing career in the Big Band era, and jumped to the silver screen after WWII. She quickly rose to leading-lady status, and from there was one of the industry’s primary bankable stars throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Primarily known for musicals and romantic comedies, she was just as successful in dramas and Hitchcock thrillers.

Her ensuing semi-retirement brought a commitment to animal-rights activism, and later, a focus on the new AIDS epidemic in the mid to late ’80s. Her short-lived (26 episodes) CBN TV series, Doris Day’s Best Friends, gained international attention through a 1985 interview with a thin, visibly ill Rock Hudson, who repeatedly denied that he was suffering from any health issues. He died later that year.

Doris Day spent her mature years active, healthy; largely out of the public eye, but was recording and releasing music as recently as 2011. She aged gracefully, and celebrated her 97th birthday last month with a film retrospective and rare interview. Her family reported that she was in optimum health prior to contracting pneumonia in early May.

We say goodbye to Doris Day: a star, a legend, and a credit to her industry. There’ll never be another like her. May she rest in peace.

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No clean hands: the Bill Barr mess

One of the most important legal precedents in American political history is the United States v. John N. Mitchell. In the aftermath of Watergate, our 67th Attorney General was charged, tried, and found guilty of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to a maximum of eight years imprisonment, which was reduced by half on appeal. He served 19 months.

John Mitchell’s fate (which included lifetime disbarment) serves as a stark warning to all future attorneys general: The top cop is not above the law.

It’s painfully clear that our current AG, William Barr, disregards this warning, and we can only hope he does so at his peril. Barr’s conduct throughout the snail-paced Mueller Report cycle has been an object lesson in how an Attorney General ought not behave. From his continuing spin of Mueller’s findings (which included that bizarre Trump laudatory masquerading as a press conference), to the gauntlet he threw today in the form of his defiance of Congressional oversight, Bill Barr is actively engaged in the destruction of his own credibility and reputation, and of the dignity and authority of his office.

But it’s worse than that. We now know that on March 27th, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took the extraordinary step of committing to writing his objection to how Barr was characterizing the investigation and its findings. Yet two weeks later, testifying before the Senate, Barr denied being aware of any dissent within the Special Counsel’s office as to the summary findings Barr had issued.

That’s perjury. There’s no other word for it.

It’s unclear, unfortunately, whether or when Barr will face any consequences for lying to the Senate. The GOP majority of that body made clear yesterday, upon Barr’s return to the Hill, that they have his back. Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham led the effort, by accusing Dem members of his panel of “slandering this man.”

The White House, meanwhile, is said to be cheering on Barr’s defiance. During and after his Senate testimony, Trump was apparently on a conference call with aides and supporters, celebrating Barr’s “loyalty.” (Here’s an important note to Bill Barr and everyone on that call: in Trump’s world, ‘loyalty’ means serving and taking fire for Trump. It’s a one-way street. He won’t do the same for you.)

And the saga continues today. The AG has skipped a scheduled hearing in the House, reportedly in objection to the prospect of being questioned by committee lawyers. His supporters in Congress and in the Executive are, once again, over the moon. Never mind the fact that open defiance of a supposedly co-equal branch of government amounts to, pretty much by definition, a constitutional crisis.

Don’t underestimate, however, the penchant of the Democratic party to drag itself just as deep into the mud. Instead of treating the ongoing morass with the gravity and sincerity it requires, they instead opted for the cheap political points and the photo op.

So yes, we got an empty chair, a Barr placemarker, and a figurine of a chicken. Too subtle for you? Then the Dems drove the point home with a bucket of KFC. We get it, but…

We are not amused.

The government is in freefall, the republic is run by fools and thieves, and if ever we needed patriots—or at least functioning adults—it’s now.

Instead we have these clowns.

The two-party system, ladies and gents, in all its glory. May the nation survive despite it.

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Social-media dead to outnumber the living by 2070

Is there anyone dead on your friends list? It’s a little unsettling, isn’t it? The profiles just abide out there, zombie-like, occasionally generating macabre birthday notices and the like. In especially tragic cases, their walls take on the temporary status of virtual wakes, collecting messages of condolence and despair. That peters out after a while, but the profile lingers on.

To be sure, platforms like Facebook have procedures for the bereaved to delete the accounts of the deceased. By necessity though, it’s a bit onerous (otherwise the trolls would be reporting us all as dead)—most families don’t bother with it. That’s why the number of zombie accounts is growing.

This report opines that, based on the trajectory of new-user sign-ups, and the current death rate (holding steady at 100%), in fifty years the dead will be the online majority.

Anecdotally, it checks out. We Gen X’ers had our first wave of mortality, the unnatural deaths, back before social media was a thing. The early suicides, the accidents and terminal misadventures of youth, we did that back in the era of MS-DOS.

We’ve been dying of natural causes, more or less, since Zuckerberg hit his thirties. As of this moment, my account is still linked with a high school acquaintance who died last year of a stroke, another who didn’t survive open-heart surgery the year prior, and at least two who OD’d on opiates (so maybe we’re not immune to misadventure quite yet after all).

No one has wound-down these undead accounts, and by now it seems like no one will. And I can’t exactly unfriend them, can I? That’s e-desecration.

So this is, apparently, the new normal and it’s the vector we’re set upon. More of us will die, most of our accounts will remain online, and fewer and fewer youngsters will be interested in joining any platform their parents use. Dead accounts will be the growth sector.

But will they really become the majority? Only if Facebook is still around for another half century. That seems about as likely as a sudden resurgence of MySpace .

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Election 2020 – let the handicapping begin

It’s never too early for electoral predictions, and the 2020 presidential election is just 19 months away. Let’s go on the record with a Deconstruction of political prognostications….

While most are keeping a sharp eye on the bloated slate of Dem candidates, we’ll begin seeing soon enough that the real bellwether is going to be the Republican primaries. Renominating an incumbent president is usually a pretty yawn-y affair, but it won’t be this time. Trump will win his primary, to be sure, but it won’t be the cakewalk that he, and everyone else, is expecting. As of this writing, only former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has officially entered the intramural scrum against Trump, but that doesn’t matter. As long as there’s a candidate with a pulse and reasonably conservative bona fides running against Trump, we’ll see some remarkable cracks in his supposed bullet-proof party loyalty.

Here’s why: It’s entirely possible, indeed it’s unexceptional, to be a social and fiscal conservative without being a nativist, a nationalist, or a crypto-fascist. There are a large number of Republicans, then—maybe a majority of them—that understand exactly what Donald Trump represents, and they don’t like it anymore than the rest of us.

Why don’t the polls reflect that? Because no one likes hearing “I told you so,” and no one bleats that phrase more than an aggrieved liberal. Also—those polls? They’re usually sponsored by hoary institutions with names like CNN, AP, Washington Post, and CBS/ABC/NBC. One thing Trump does have in common with these folks is a hatred of the news media, so the last person that a conservative suffering from buyer’s remorse is going to confide in is a media pollster. The second-to-last is any of their liberal friends or relatives.

But in the solitude of the voting booth, they’ll be free to express themselves. Trump will win his primary, but it’ll be a squeaker. That’s when he’ll realize he has a problem.

Over on the Dem side, the outcome of the primaries will entirely depend on whether the party back-office puts its thumb on the scale, like it did in 2016, or if they actually let their voters decide.

If it’s the latter, then electability will be the word of the day. The Democratic rank and file will be in no mood to make history or smash glass ceilings—it’s going to be all about Who Can Beat Trump. For that, they’ll want a reasonably qualified white guy from a flyover state: Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and John Hickenlooper will be their go-tos. If they’re feeling adventurous, they’ll add Cory Booker and Mayor Pete to the list of front runners. Nostalgia and name recognition will gain some delegates for Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, but not enough of them.

Whoever that candidate is, come November, the race will be theirs to lose. It might be cliche to say that it’ll be the economy, stupid, but that doesn’t make it any less true. All indications are that the economy will continue to soften between now and then, maybe even slide into a recession, and if that’s true, then Trump will take the blame.

Those conservative voters will, at that point, hold their nose (and think of the judiciary, and RBG’s SCOTUS seat), and pull the lever for Trump. But that will not be enough. The independents, and the blue-collar voters from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, will not be fooled again. As we speak, they already well know that the GOP sold them a bill of goods with their 2017 tax cuts (remember when Trump said his rich friends were going to be angry with him? Good times)…and the Dems will not be parsimonious in reminding them of this.

So Trump will hold onto a core of GOP voters, minus the really disgusted ones who’ll be sitting this one out. With that, he’ll be lucky to pull down 35 per cent of the popular vote.

And that as-yet to be named flyover white guy? If he shows up, speaks with intelligence, and has a minimum number of skeletons in the closet, he’ll finish with 350 electoral-college votes, and the Trump era will be at a close.

You heard it here first.

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C’est une tragédie

What a heart-wrenching loss for Paris, for France, and for the world.

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Gaze long into this abyss

For the first time ever, we have a picture of a black hole. Behold the supermassive space-time phenomenon that lies at the heart of galaxy M87, 55 million light-years from earth.

The image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, which is actually a network of eight ground-based observatories around the world, working in concert. The consortium announced today that they have successfully captured the first optical image of a black hole.

A black hole is as much a condition as it is an object—it’s a region of space-time warped by gravitation (probably, in most cases, initiated by the collapse of extremely massive stars) to the point that not even light can escape. The idea that gravity could absorb light was first proposed by astronomer John Michell in 1784, but it wasn’t until Albert Einstein developed his general theory of relativity in 1915 that black holes were named, and described.

For the next hundred years, more or less, black holes remained entirely theoretical, and it was thought by many that they’d always stay that way. In the 1980s, Stephen Hawking predicted the existence of a type of quantum radiation generated near the edges, or event horizons, of black holes, which might provide an indirect method of detecting them. It’s said that upon the publication of that paper, some anonymous physicist ran through the halls of his university, shouting to his colleagues, “Did you hear? Stephen has changed everything!”

Today, everything has changed again. Einstein was right, and so (of course) was Hawking. Black holes exist, they’re monsters (the one above is 40 billion kilometers in diameter—larger than our solar system); we know how to find them, and we can see them.

What’s next? On days like this, it feels like there’s literally no limit.

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Here’s what’s going on

I said hey.

What’s going on?

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The art of eternal employment

Lifetime guaranteed employment sounds like a concept from an earlier age, or perhaps something that never existed at all.

How about eternal, self-perpetuating employment? Economists can argue whether such a thing could ever be possible (economists argue about everything, you know), so it’s up to conceptual artists, plus a little seed money, to make it a reality.

Eternal Employment” at Korsvägen train station, near Gothenberg, Sweden, is a proposed art project conceived by the duo Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby—they’re Stockholm-based creators who spin art from macroeconomics, drawn (as they put it) “to its (il)logical conclusions.”

Their proposal in this case is to collect the prize money offered by Public Art Agency Sweden and the Swedish Transport Administration, intended for art installations at the still-under-construction Korsvägen station, and invest the sum (about $650,000) in both international and domestic Swedish securities. Per their projections, by the time the station opens in 2025, the account should have grown to the point of supporting the employment of one person, at fair living wages plus competitive benefits, in perpetuity.

The absurdist subtext seems to be that since the salary is financed through equity investing, no actual value needs to be created by the (lucky) chosen worker. Thus, that person will have no job requirements, and no real job description. The worker will be required to report to Korsvägen, and punch a time clock which switches on a set of terminal lights. After this, the workday consists of “no duties or responsibilities besides the fact that the work should be carried out at Korsvägen. Whatever the employee chooses to do constitutes the work.”

A slacker’s (or trainspotter’s) dream job, to be sure. There’s sweet silliness there, enough to make me cross my fingers that Goldin+Senneby land their grant, and then cross my fingers and toes for my own chances once I send them my CV.

But don’t mistake silliness for the lack of message. (Sometimes silliness is just the right medium). Goldin+Senneby seem to want to blur the line that demands one economic class must constantly justify its existence, while another is free to create its wealth out of thin air. Why not leverage the means of the latter, in order to feed the former?

Subverting that paradigm might just open one job, in one Swedish railway station, for one person, forever. That’s a start, isn’t it?

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When the going gets tough, the snowflakes sue

It’s really quite impressive how many of us can go around with a copy of the U.S. Constitution in our hip pocket, yet still have no idea what it does and does not say.

Case in point: artist and Trump evangelist Julian Raven painted the above larger-than–life paeon portraiture back during the 2016 campaign. After his candidate won, he knew there was just one place to display it. Alas, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery said “nah.” Art is doubtlessly subjective, and the museum’s admittedly subjective reasoning (“It’s too big,” “It’s too political,” “It’s not very good”) was deemed insufficient by the ruffled Raven. He has filed suit, arguing that…well, it’s not exactly clear what he’s arguing. He cites First Amendment free-speech issues, but the pesky plain text there makes clear that our right is simply this: the government cannot stifle free expression. The fact that no deep-stater succeeded in stopping Raven from putting brush to canvas demonstrates that his rights were in no way infringed.

His painting was displayed to rave reviews at last month’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) conference, so it’s difficult for him to even say that his work is somehow being suppressed. The initial case was dismissed in U.S. District Court, with the presiding judge noting that far from Raven’s free speech being infringed by the Smithsonian, he was attempting to infringe theirs, by forcing them to accept art they didn’t want. That logic failed to impress, unsurprisingly, and Raven is appealing.

But maybe a U.S. congressman might understand how the Constitution works? You wish.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is suing Twitter for $250 million, claiming that the social networking site has violated his free-speech rights by actively censoring his tweets, while simultaneously working to promote anti-Nunes parody accounts, such as Devin Nunes’ Mom and Devin Nunes’ Cow.

Twitter hasn’t yet responded to the suit, for reasons that I can only assume are mind-numbingly obvious: they’re a private corporation, and their responsibility for Devin Nunes’ First Amendment rights is approximately equal to my obligation to train and equip the First Marine Division. Yet somehow the good congressman doesn’t seem to get that.

Or maybe he’s just jealous—of his cow. As of this afternoon @DevinNunesCow has about 100,000 more followers than @DevinNunes.

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