Monday, April 22, 2024


I wouldn’t believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized.

- potential juror not seated for Trump trial

This week's featured post is "Defending American Values: Trial by Jury".

This week everybody was talking about the dysfunction of the House GOP

I guess all's well that ends well. Saturday, pro-Russia House Republicans were finally overcome and the Ukraine aid President Biden requested last September was approved. The aid passed with Democrats voting 210-0 in favor and Republicans 101-112 against.

The road to that vote was very strange. Typically, passing a bill begins with passing a set of rules for the vote. The rules resolution defines the process for passing the bill, including the timing of the vote and what amendments will be in order. This is done through the Rules Committee, which typically is a rubber-stamp for the Speaker, whose party has a majority on that committee. Rules Committee votes are often party-line.

This time, though three Republicans voted against the rule, which only got out of the committee because Democrats supported it. Similarly on the floor of the House, 55 Republicans voted against the rule, which would have failed without Democratic support.

The Senate is expected to pass the Ukraine aid package tomorrow, and the weaponry (some of which is already stockpiled in Europe), should start arriving within days.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck accused of "mouthing Russian propaganda", reiterated her threat to oust Johnson (in the same manner Kevin McCarthy was removed in October after refusing to shut down the government), but did not bring her vacate-the-chair resolution to the floor before the House adjourned.

That could mean that she knows she doesn't have the votes, but it's hard to say for sure.

This whole episode points out the dysfunction of the House's right wing. They managed to delay Ukraine aid, but not stop it. And they got nothing in exchange for letting it pass.

In February, Senator Lankford (R-OK) had negotiated a Ukraine-aid package that included very much of what the GOP wanted in a border bill. But Trump decided he wanted the border as an issue in November, so he torpedoed that compromise.

So now Republicans get to complain that we are spending money to secure Ukraine but not to secure our southern border, but it's empty rhetoric. Democrats were willing to take action on the border, but Republicans weren't.

One of the most ridiculous stories of the week was the Freedom Caucus worrying that Speaker Johnson was going to launch a surprise attack on them.

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are signing up to take shifts to monitor the chamber floor in order to prevent their own party leaders from making unilateral moves that could curb their power.

This group called itself the Floor Action Response Team, a.k.a. FART. You can't make this stuff up.

and Trump's trial

Last week I was hearing that it might take as long as a month to find a jury for Trump's Manhattan trial, which began last Monday. In fact, 12 jurors and six alternates were in place by Friday. Opening statements are happening this morning.

The most unsettling story of the week (other than the disturbed man who set himself on fire to send a message that no one has been able to decipher) was MAGA-world's attempt to rig and intimidate the jury. In the featured post, I take a step back and consider Trumpists' attacks on the jury system as part of their larger authoritarian project.

Trump has quite obviously been defying Judge Merchan's gag order. The judge will hold a hearing tomorrow. What he decides to do should tell us a lot about how the trial will proceed.

It's obvious that Trump believes he can't be jailed, and that any fines will just be the cost of doing business. I'll be curious to see how Merchan punctures that confidence. I hope he has had somebody working on the logistical problem of jailing a man with Secret Service protection. A good first step would be to send Trump on a tour of the facilities Merchan has picked out.

Trump is having trouble accepting the fact that he has been indicted by a grand jury of American citizens, and so is a criminal defendant.

Case in point: Barron Trump's high school graduation. Trump asked Judge Merchan to adjourn the trial for a day on May 17 so that he can go to the ceremony. Merchan said maybe; if the trial is on schedule then, an adjournment might happen. Trump took this as a rejection and complained bitterly on social media, inciting his followers to denounce the judge. (Michael Cohen then posted that Trump had never attended his other children's graduations, which seems not to be true.)

But the upshot is that Trump is being treated like what he is: a criminal defendant. Defendants don't typically get to arrange the court schedule for their own convenience. They also don't get to control the court sketch artist or the room's thermostat, or to prevent reporters from mentioning that they fall asleep in court.

Merchan is simply using the levers he has to keep Trump under control: If Trump keeps trying to delay the trial any way he can, he won't get to go to Barron's graduation. In other words: If you want something from me, behave yourself.

My conclusion: Trump knows he won't behave, and is already setting up to deny that it will be his own fault when he misses the graduation.

Trump scheduled a rally Saturday in North Carolina, but cancelled it due to weather. It's got to be wearing on him to go so long without the encouragement of a worshiping crowd.

If there's one person who's enjoying all this, it's Jimmy Kimmel. While he was hosting the Oscars over a month ago, Kimmel read aloud Trump's social-media rant against Kimmel's performance, and then addressed Trump directly:

Thank you for watching. I'm surprised you're still [up]. Isn't it past your jail time?

Five weeks later, Trump hasn't been able to let that go, so Wednesday he used his day off from court to post another rant about Kimmel and the Oscars, pretending it was Kimmel who couldn't get over it.

Stupid Jimmy Kimmel, who still hasn’t recovered from his horrendous performance and big ratings drop as Host of The Academy Awards, especially when he showed he suffered from TDS, commonly known as TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME, to the entire World by reading on air my TRUTH about how bad a job he was doing that night, right before he stumbled through announcing the biggest award of all, ‘Picture of the Year.’

Wednesday night, Kimmel took this apart line by line: Ratings were up, and as the host, Kimmel didn't present any awards.

The person who presented the [Best Picture] award was Al Pacino, not me. We are different people. ... You’d think he would know that because I’m pretty sure ‘Say hello to my little friend’ is what he said to Stormy Daniels that got him in all this trouble.

Kimmel later suggested that if he hosted again next year, Trump might be able to watch "on the TV in the Rec Room at Rikers". The whole monologue is worth watching, and proves that a politician should never get into a back-and-forth with a comedian.

The phrase "Trump derangement syndrome" is a classic projection, as Kimmel pointed out. ("There's only one person who suffers from Trump derangement syndrome. His name is Donald Trump.") The surest way to get yourself diagnosed with TDS is to look at facts about Trump, apply ordinary standards of morality and decency, and reach the obvious conclusion that the man is a piece of shit.

But what's truly deranged is the way Trump cultists distort reality to justify whatever their idol does. Take sexual assault, for example. At least two dozen women have publicly accused Trump of some form of inappropriate sexual advances, up to and including rape. Their stories are remarkably similar, and they track with the behavior Trump bragged about on the Access Hollywood tape.

The Trump cult explanation is simple: All the women are lying, and Trump's confession was meaningless "locker room talk".

Who's deranged here?

Kevin McCarthy is trying to normalize Trump's denial of the 2020 election by asking "Has Hillary Clinton ever said she lost the 2016 election?" Yeah, she did. On national TV. There's video.

and Israel/Iran

Cooler heads may be prevailing. The tit-for-tat between Israel and Iran seems to be dying down and may have ended. After Israel bombed Iran's diplomatic compound in Damascus, Iran vowed to retaliate. On April 13, it sent over 300 drones and missiles flying towards Israel, nearly all of which got knocked down. Then it was Israel who vowed to retaliate, which it did early Friday morning.

Israel attacked a military base very close to a major Iranian nuclear facility. So the attack was mostly a message: If we had wanted to strike something much more important, you couldn't have stopped us. So far, Iran seems to be ignoring this attack, at least in public.

So we can hope that this particular episode is over, and Iran will go back to fighting Israel through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah.

and the Supreme Court

The Court has some interesting cases lined up this week, which is the final week of arguments in this term. Thursday, it will hear arguments on Trump's claim of criminal immunity. The big question here is not whether it will find in his favor, but whether it will continue playing along with his delay strategy. (I have a fantasy in which the Biden administration files an amicus brief, urging the Court to decide this case quickly so that Biden knows what laws he can break before his term ends. In particular, can he order the assassinations of certain justices while he still has time to nominate replacements?)

Liz Cheney writes:

Mr. Trump believes he can threaten and intimidate judges and their families, assert baseless legal defenses and thereby avoid accountability altogether. Through this conduct, he seeks to break our institutions. If Mr. Trump’s tactics prevent his Jan. 6 trial from proceeding in the ordinary course, he will also have succeeded in concealing critical evidence from the American people — evidence demonstrating his disregard for the rule of law, his cruelty on Jan. 6 and the deep flaws in character that make him unfit to serve as president. The Supreme Court should understand this reality and conclude without delay that no immunity applies here.

Today, the Court is hearing arguments in Grants Pass v Johnson, which involves a longstanding principle of American law: In order to break the law, you have to do something, not just be a certain kind of person.

The issue here is homelessness. Grants Pass has such sweeping laws against sleeping in public that it is nearly impossible for a homeless person to live there and stay within the law. On the one hand, it seems like it shouldn't be illegal simply to be homeless. On the other, municipalities want to have some way to regulate homeless encampments, which can be health hazards.

Wednesday, it's time for Idaho v United States. Here the issue is a Reagan-era law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, Emtala for short. Emtala requires emergency rooms to treat people who show up there (or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding).

The case was brought after Idaho imposed a near-total abortion ban that allowed doctors to perform an emergency abortion only if a pregnant patient was on the brink of death.

That law is in direct conflict with Emtala, which requires doctors to stabilize emergency patients so they won’t face severe health consequences – a radically lower bar for intervention than Idaho’s. Shortly after Roe was overturned, the Biden administration issued a guidance stating that the federal law pre-empts state abortion bans, ultimately suing Idaho over its ban.

So if a woman with a problem pregnancy shows up at an emergency room in Idaho, and isn't at death's door, but needs an abortion to, say, preserve her future fertility or prevent some problem that may lead to death in a week or two, what should happen?

These cases should all be decided by the end of the term in June.

and you also might be interested in ...

Not content to simply waste its own time, the House Republican majority tried to waste the Senate's time as well. The Senate refused.

The House had impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas essentially for policy differences. Ostensibly, he was charged with refusing to observe a 1952 law requiring applicants for asylum to be detained until a decision is reached -- something no administration has done in recent years, largely because Congress hasn't appropriated the money to do it. (One of the goals of the border bill that Trump torpedoed was to streamline the asylum process by funding more courts and judges.)

Once an impeachment has been voted by the House, the Senate is supposed to drop all its other business and hold a trial. Republicans were hoping for a grand show trial that would give them a stage to pontificate about border issues.

Democrats refused to play ball. In short order, a party-line vote (where Republican Lisa Murkowski voted Present rather than No) ended the trial because the bill of impeachment "does not allege conduct that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor” as required in the Constitution.

Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers. The factory had rejected the union in 2014 and 2019, but this time the union held nearly a 3-1 majority. Historically, the South has not been welcoming to unions.

and let's close with something spectacular

Two of nature's most striking spectacles are the Northern Lights and a volcano erupting at night. In Iceland, you can sometimes get both.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Dreams of ease

The fact of the matter is that almost nobody who works for a living has the time they wish they did to look, feel or be their best, much less to cultivate a highly aesthetic relationship with a thing called ease.

- Monica Hesse
"Tradwives, stay-at-home girlfriends and the dream of feminine leisure"

This week's featured posts are "A Different Take on Retro Conservative Fantasy", "The Arizona Abortion Ruling", and "Republicans Scramble to Contain their Abortion Disaster".

This week everybody was talking about abortion

My thoughts about the week's developments are parceled out between two featured posts. I specifically examine the Arizona Supreme Court's reinstatement of a draconian 1864 law in "The Arizona Abortion Ruling". (Surprise: I agree that the majority read the state's horrible laws correctly.) And I look at the larger political situation in "Republicans Scramble to Contain their Abortion Disaster".

and Iran's retaliation against Israel

Ever since Hamas' October 7 attacks, one of the main goals of the Biden administration has been to keep the situation from escalating into a larger war involving Iran directly, and possibly drawing in Saudi Arabia and other regional powers. That got more difficult two weeks ago when Israel bombed an Iranian consulate in Syria, killing two Iranian generals.

Iran vowed to respond, and Sunday it launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. With American help, Israeli air defenses seem to have handled the attack, which resulted in little damage.

If this were a playground spat -- something I think the Middle East often resembles -- the proper Israeli response would be something like "Nyah, nyah, missed me." But apparently not everyone thinks so. So Biden is now trying to talk Israel out of launching some kind of attack on Iran.

and Trump's first criminal trial

So the day has actually arrived: Trump is in court as a criminal defendant. Jury selection is underway.

Nobody has come up with the right name for this case yet. Sometimes it's called the "hush money" indictment, but that makes it sound as if Trump were accused of paying hush money to cover up his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels -- which isn't true. Cheating on your wife with a porn star and then paying her not to tell anybody may be sleazy, but it isn't illegal.

The actual charge here is falsifying business records, which makes the case sound like some technical bookkeeping error. That also is misleading. The course of illegality here is more circuitous: Trump had his fixer, Michael Cohen, pay for Stormy's silence out of his own funds just before the 2016 election. (I can imagine the conversation where Cohen explained to his wife that he had taken out a home equity loan so that he could give money to a porn star.) That money wasn't recorded as either a campaign expense or an in-kind contribution. And then the Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen, recording the expense as legal fees. Those legal-fee invoices are the false business records.

So at its root, the case is about defrauding the electorate in 2016.

Anyway, all Trump's last-minute motions to try to get the trial delayed failed, so here we are. Estimates on the timing vary, but most legal commentators predict a verdict well before the summer conventions.

There's a lot of debate over what political impact the trial will have. One school of thought says this is all good for Trump, because it plays into his persecution narrative. His voters are never going to believe he's guilty anyway, so there's nothing to gain by convicting him.

I disagree. Trump is strongest politically when his campaign can spin gauzy tales about how great everything was in 2019. (They've shoved the nightmare of 2020 down the memory hole.) He's weakest when his personality is front and center, reminding people of how much most of us hated having him as our president.

Trump on trial is going to be Trump at his worst: glowering, muttering, unable to control himself, and doing his best to incite violence against the long list of people he thinks have wronged him. The main issue at the trial is going to be whether Trump knew how this whole scheme worked, and numerous witnesses are going to say that he did. The only person in a position to testify that he didn't is Trump himself, and Trump (as we've seen in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case) is a terrible witness. If he testifies -- which he says he'll do, but I doubt -- he'll insult the judge, alienate the jury, and probably convict himself.

One thing I've picked up from online interactions with Trump defenders is that most of them have preserved their faith in his general innocence by refusing to see the evidence against him. They didn't watch the January 6 Committee hearings, haven't read the indictments, and so on. They don't have some alternate interpretation of the evidence that clears him, but they just say "politically motivated persecution", believe him when he says "I did nothing wrong", and refuse to delve any deeper. That kind of intentional ignorance is going to be hard to maintain once this trial takes over the news cycle.

In particular, it's going to be hard for members of the jury. So even if a juror or two comes in as a Trump sympathizer, they might end up voting to convict. Especially after he glowers at them for several weeks.

Trump's cognitive decline is getting harder to explain away. Here, he doesn't just get the wrong word (as Biden sometimes does), his verbal center seems to glitch completely.

and you also might be interested in ...

Kansas' Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, vetoed a bill banning gender-affirming care, saying that it "tramples on parental rights". Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature and are going to try to override the veto.

This is typical of Republicans: They support the rights of parents until the parents do something they don't like. Similarly, they support local control until local governments do something they don't like. All their apparent "principles" are just rhetoric.

The NYT is reaching the point where parodies just can't keep up. Wednesday, it did a both-sides treatment of abortion: "Two Imperfect Messengers Take On Abortion". I mean, Trump brags about torpedoing Roe v Wade and Biden supports legislation to restore it, but they're basically the same.

The WaPo talked to Trump Media investors who are trying to keep the faith in the face of a plunging stock price. No matter how much they lose, they'll never admit that they've been had by a lifelong conman.

Meanwhile, the conman and his insider cronies took steps this morning to offer more shares for sale, driving the stock price down to a new low: $27.55 a little before noon today. That's down 15% since this morning, and down from its March 27 peak around $70.

So O. J. Simpson died of cancer this week. I'm somewhat amazed by how much coverage this has gotten. Yes, his murder trial dominated the news in 1994 and was an important moment in the transition to news-as-entertainment. But if you're under 40, you may not know who he was.

I thought I'd add something to the discussion nobody else seems to remember: what a cultural presence OJ was before the murder and the trial. Here's a 1978 clip from the Robin Williams comedy Mork and Mindy, where Mork was an alien sent to explore Earth. (This was the role that first made Williams famous.)

Every episode would end with Mork reporting to Orson, his contact back on Ork. This episode's report included a terrible pun. Mork told Orson that some Earth people worship O. J. Simpson. "The Juice?" Orson asked, displaying a mysterious familiarity with OJ's nickname. Mork replied: "Yes. And the gentiles also."

and let's close with something dark

Last Monday's eclipse dominated public attention for a few hours. Maybe you watched a partial eclipse, or traveled to see totality, or missed it completely. But never mind. Lots of people took pictures. Here's Wired magazine's selections of the best ones.

Monday, April 8, 2024


This is tragic but it is not an anomaly.
The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.

- Scott Paul of Oxfam,
commenting on the death of seven World Central Kitchen workers

This week's featured post is "Will the World Central Kitchen attack change anything?"

This week everybody was talking about signs and wonders

This morning, all eyes are on the narrow corridor of the total eclipse, which stretches from Texas in the South to Maine in the North, and goes through Dallas, Cleveland, and Buffalo along the way.

I've never experienced a total eclipse myself (and won't see this one either), but I imagine there must be a significant oh-wow effect to seeing the Sun go dark in the middle of the sky. It's not hard to see why pre-scientific peoples tried to read portents into such an event, just as they read meaning into the appearance of comets and other celestial phenomena.

It's much harder for me to understand why so many people are still doing it. We know what causes eclipses and can predict them hundreds of years in advance.

Friday, Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted:

God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent. Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens.

and then doubled down yesterday:

Many have mocked and scoffed at this post and even put community notes. Jesus talked about that in Luke 12:54-56. Yes eclipses are predictable and earthquakes happen and we know when comets are passing by, however God created all of these things and uses them to be signs for those of us who believe.

First off, MTG should re-read Luke 12:54-56. I don't think it says what she thinks it does.

But more importantly, I think signs and wonders appeal to charlatans like MTG precisely because they have no content of their own. The event itself is striking, but its meaning is wide open for whatever claims people want to make.

So America should repent? OK, how about we repent our long history of racism? our wasteful burning of fossil fuels? our cruelty towards refugees who arrive at our border seeking help? our willingness to let people die of preventable causes rather than provide medical care? the vast gulf between our rich and our poor?

No? Not what you wanted us to repent? Show me what part of the eclipse points out same-sex marriage or drag shows or socialism or letting people use the "wrong" bathrooms.

And what counts as a sign that demands interpretation? As several people have pointed out, the recent earthquake was centered in New Jersey, not far from the Bedminster golf club of a noted Bible salesman. Could that be what God is angry about?

Oh, and what about this sign? During the previous administration, God sent an actual plague that killed over a million Americans. The deaths continue to be concentrated in counties that support that leader. Is that something to interpret?

When MTG talks about "those of us who believe", she means authoritarian communities, where some leader is empowered to define a sign and attach an interpretation to it without debate. As soon as the meaning is open to discussion, though, the underlying emptiness of the "sign" quickly becomes apparent.

and the World Central Kitchen attack

This is the subject of the featured post.

and Caitlin Clark

In the women's NCAA basketball tournament, both the Iowa/Connecticut final-four game Friday and the Iowa/South Carolina championship last night set records for TV ratings. Final numbers for last night's game aren't in yet, but Friday's game drew 14.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched basketball game ever on ESPN.

Friday's blockbuster matchup with a controversial finish peaked at 17 million viewers, surpassing every NBA Finals and MLB World Series game last year. It was only topped by five college football games in 2023. Meanwhile, no Daytona 500 race or Masters Tournament final round has exceeded Friday's numbers since 2013. Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors beat Iowa vs. UConn with 18.59 million viewers, but it was aired on ABC.

People who don't watch sports usually don't grasp the soap-opera aspect of being a fan. You watch not just for the competition and the beauty of the sport, but because you're in the middle of a story and want to see how it comes out. Like soap opera, each episode/game answers some questions, but raises others that will keep you watching future games.

Women's sports have languished behind men's sports largely because of the inherent chicken/egg problem of attracting new fans: If you haven't been watching, you don't know what questions the next game is supposed to be answering.

This year, the stardom of Iowa's Caitlin Clark got women's basketball over the hump. Once you started watching, you also began to wonder about Paige Bueckers, Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso, and a bunch of other stars. You might continue to follow them in the WNBA or watch next year's college games.

Women's basketball is on the map now.

and trials

It increasingly looks like Trump is actually going to face a criminal trial. The fake-business-records-to-cover-up-paying-off-the-porn-star case is due to start next week.

That may not be the case you'd really like to see. The Mar-a-Lago documents case is more open-and-shut, and the two January 6 conspiracy cases go to the heart of Trump's assault on democracy. But it is a real indictment of a real crime. If any other ex-president faced such a thing, it would be extraordinary. We've just gotten used to taking Trump's wrongdoing for granted.

You can tell Trump himself is worried, because he's acting out. He's been attacking the judge's adult daughter, and now says that he is willing to go to jail on the free-speech principle that he can attack anybody he wants, no matter what the judge's gag order says.

Trump says a lot of things, and most of them turn out not to be true. I think he'll whimper like a small child if he has to go to a real jail. I also think Judge Merchan will have to do something to establish who is in control of his courtroom.

The drama of Trump's bond isn't over yet. So, two weeks ago, he was supposed to come up with nearly half a billion dollars to secure the civil fraud judgment against him while he appealed. But then at the last minute, a NY appeals court lowered it to $175 million and gave him ten more days to come up with it, which he appeared to do.

The coverage came from Knight Specialty Insurance, whose CEO is Don Hankey, the "king of subprime car loans" and a major Republican donor. State AG Letitia James noticed that Knight is "not an admitted carrier in New York, and lacks the certificate of qualification required by New York Insurance Law Section 1111" so she challenged the sufficiency of the bond.

So now the question isn't whether Trump has the money, it's whether Knight does.

Steve Bannon, you may recall, was criminally charged in a scheme to defraud people who wanted to build chunks of Trump's border wall with private funding. Trump pardoned him, so he wasn't convicted with his co-conspirators, one of whom was recently sentenced to more than four years in prison. (Think about the weirdness of that for a second: Somebody defrauds your supporters, so you pardon them.)

But presidential pardons don't get you out of state court, so Bannon is scheduled to go to trial in New York in May.

and you also might be interested in ...

The House goes back to work today, which means something will have to happen with Ukraine funding. Speaker Mike Johnson is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, so he might as well do the right thing. But we'll see.

A group of psychologists, gerontologists, and other mental-health professionals explain why Trump's dementia symptoms are far more worrying than anything about Biden.

what I feel is happening right now is that we're being gaslit. The press is pathologizing Biden's normal signs of aging, and they're normalizing Trump's blatant signs of of dementia. And so the people are really being told a kind of double lie. Either it’s twice as many people believe Biden is not as cognitively fit as Trump. Or we have the tired old “two old men” narrative, you know, we have a gerontocracy. And the point is that, look, we're talking about a tale of two brains here. Biden's brain is aging, Trump's brain is dementing. We're comparing apples to rotted oranges here. They're not the same.

One example I found persuasive is the Nancy/Nikki incident:

The Dementia Care Society says that a sign of advanced dementia is when you start combining people and generations. You literally mash people together into one person. ... Trump showed us the combination of people when he made Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley one person. It wasn't a slip of the tongue, okay? It wasn't that he meant to say one name and he said the other. He gave a speech about the person I'm running against in this primary who was responsible for security at the Capitol. He actually confused the two people. You see the difference?

The Trump Media stock meltdown seems to be underway. It began publicly trading under the symbol DJT on March 26, and jumped up above $70 a share on the 27th. It closed Friday at $40.59. Last I checked this morning, it was $36.52.

DJT's main problem is that the underlying business is worthless. The usual start-up story is that a company may be losing money right now, but its revenues and user base are growing fast, so profitability is going to happen eventually. DJT is losing money now, isn't growing, and has no plausible plan to ever make money.

Meanwhile, it's paying six-figure salaries to a small band of Trump loyalists, and a bunch of stakeholders are suing each other.

WaPo speculates on Trump's plan to end the Ukraine War, which he has said he could do in 24 hours. The gist: Russia gets to keep Crimea and some section of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine gets ... I'm not sure what. And the US drops its sanctions in an effort to make Russia less dependent on China.

The Munich analogy gets way over-used, but this does sound awfully Munich-like.

After much angst and fanfare, No Labels is not going to run a candidate in 2024.

The underlying problem of No Labels is that it reads the electorate wrong. Yes, most people do wish that the two major parties would compromise and govern, rather than posture and logjam. But that desire for compromise has no content on particular issues. There is no centrist philosophy that informs centrist positions on economic and cultural matters, and no centrist vision of America's future.

Worse, most of the specific positions centrist politicians stake out are actually compromises already proposed by Democrats and rejected by Republicans. Take the budget deficit. Want to split the difference between Democratic tax increases and Republican spending cuts? Good luck with that; Obama already tried it.

The lack of a No Labels candidate means RFK Jr. is the only significant third-party option. I think the way to run against him is to let him talk. He's a loon who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like. The more people see him, the less they're going to want him to be president.

Jon Tester's seat in Montana might decide the Senate majority. (Democrats currently hold a 51-49 advantage, but the seat Joe Manchin is retiring from is considered unwinnable.) This week WaPo published a weird and complicated story about the main Republican challlenger, former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy.

It's about the bullet in his forearm, which he says he picked up in Afghanistan but never reported. Then he later told a park ranger a story about shooting himself accidentally in a national park. That lie was technically a crime, but the statute of limitations has passed. As to why he covered up the wound to begin with, I'm still confused.

and let's close with something natural

One of the best photo contests online is Smithsonian Magazine's. Here we see a glacial lake in Denali National Park in Alaska.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Advanced Development

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.

- Gustavo Petro, then Mayor of Bogotá

This week's featured post is "The Supreme Court will have to carry this case to term".

This week everybody was talking about the Key Bridge collapse

My wife and I drive past Baltimore at least twice a year, and we disagree about whether we've ever been on the Key Bridge. (Usually we take the I-895 tunnel.) Nonetheless, I've seen an exit for the bridge many, many times, and it feels like a real place to me.

Anyway, the bridge's collapse looks like a series of unfortunate events: A big container ship lost power, lost control of its steering, and rammed the bridge, bringing it down. Some quick work closing the bridge to traffic saved a lot of lives. (In the video, you can see the last few cars and trucks getting across.) The lives not saved were workers doing maintenance late at night. All six were Central American migrants here legally.

The Port of Baltimore, one of the East Coast's busiest harbors, is closed until the wreckage can be cleared away. That's going to have economic consequences all over the country.

What should happen next is fairly obvious: rebuild. Baltimore needs its outer beltway. People (like me) who drive down the east coast do not need or want to add to the city's congestion. And the two alternate routes are tunnels where it's illegal to carry hazardous materials. If this bridge were in a red state, Congress would quickly approve bipartisan funding and the rebuilding process would begin.

But Maryland is a blue state and Baltimore is the kind of city Republicans like to demonize. So nothing will be simple.

The immediate media response to the disaster illustrated the disadvantage pundits labor under when they care about facts.

TV talking heads who were trying to be honest and responsible had to admit they didn't know what had happened or why. Not so, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who instantly raised the issue of whether this was a terrorist attack. Misogynist Andrew Tate (who had been successfully deplatformed from social media until Elon Musk brought him back) declared the event a "cyber attack" and predicted a "Black Swan event" would follow. Alex Jones then upped the ante, announcing "WW3 has already started."

Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo immediately thought of "the potential for wrongdoing or the potential for foul play given the wide open border". Utah legislator and candidate for governor Phil Lyman tweeted, "This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens." Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union pointed at "drug-addled" employees and Covid lockdowns as possible causes. Both the Baltimore mayor and the Maryland governor are Black, which has made them tempting targets.

But remember: All the local emergency response people performed admirably. Eventually we'll find out the root causes, which quite probably have nothing to do with the mayor or governor. And the central victims of the tragedy -- the people who died -- were migrants doing hard jobs.

I wish Fox Business had interviewed me. I could have raised my theory that God was angry over the blasphemy of the Trump Bible. It makes as much sense as anything else.

and the Supreme Court

The mifepristone case is the subject of the featured post. But another outrage got comparatively little coverage: the Court's foot-dragging on a South Carolina gerrymandering case.

More than a year ago, a three-judge panel ruled that the congressional districts drawn by the South Carolina legislature were an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. In particular, Black voters were intentionally moved out of the 1st district, currently represented by Republican Nance Mace.

South Carolina appealed to the Supreme Court almost exactly a year ago, and the Court has done nothing. But while the Court was "considering" the appeal, nobody else could do anything either. So there is no alternative map, and the electoral process has to move forward, with the state required to mail overseas and military ballots by April 27 for the primary June 1.

Thursday the three-judge panel relented, giving the state the OK to use the racially gerrymandered map for this election cycle. Quite possibly, this will result in an ill-gotten House seat for the Republicans.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes was apoplectic about this:

We see what they're doing. We know the conservative majority of this Supreme Court decided to let Black voters continue to be discriminated against in South Carolina this year in violation of the Constitution

This was part of a larger segment where Hayes also discussed the Court helping Trump stall his federal January 6 case until after the election.

and other right-wing freakouts

The Fox News silo worked itself into a lather about the ways Joe Biden has "disrespected" Easter. Jay Kuo explains two that Trump raged about in one tweet. The marketer of the Trump Bible described these actions as "blasphemous" and "examples of the Biden Administration's years-long assault on the Christian faith".

First, Biden proclaimed Easter as Transgender Day of Visibility. OK, Biden did make a proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility, which has been on March 31 since it was established in 2009. Easter, which is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, happened to fall on March 31 this year, as it tends to about one year in every 23. If this upsets you, you should blame the Sun and Moon, not Biden.

BTW. The whole idea that Christianity has something to do with gender Identities is suspect. No matter how hard people work to inject their bigotries into the Bible, their bigotries remain their bigotries, not their religious convictions.

Second, Biden supposedly banned religious designs from the White House Easter-egg art contest. This also is true, sort of. But religious designs have been banned from the contest for 47 years, including the four Trump-administration Easters. The contest, it turns out, is partially funded by the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the American Egg Board as a promotional event for eggs. (There had to be a propaganda purpose somewhere, right?) AEB President Emily Metz explains:

So when we say, "can’t be overtly religious", we just can’t be seen to be promoting one religion over the other, the same way we can’t be seen to be promoting one political viewpoint or ideology over the other. We have to be totally neutral in everything we do and have it just be focused on egg promotion and marketing activities.

If you ever find yourself wondering why MAGA conservatives can't raise any outrage over climate change or mass shootings, just remember that they have far more important things to get upset about.

and Ronna McDaniel

NBC and MSNBC briefly employed former RNC head Ronna Romney McDaniel, until protests from the staff convinced the executives to reverse course.

A day after NBC chief political analyst Chuck Todd told “Meet the Press” viewers that McDaniel “has credibility issues that she still has to deal with,” hosts on the network’s cable affiliate — including Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid, Joe Scarborough, Lawrence O’Donnell and Jen Psaki — echoed the rebuke, citing her support of Donald Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

The Detroit News reported that McDaniel was on a phone call where Trump pressured Michigan election officials not to certify the election returns from Wayne County. MSNBC host Joy Reid commented:

We welcome Republican voices. The reality is: This isn’t a difference of opinion. She literally backed an illegal scheme to steal an election in the state of Michigan.

The rationale for hiring McDaniel in the first placed was summarized by NBCUniversal Group Chairman Cesar Conde:

Conde said in his memo that the decision to bring McDaniel on board was made “because of our deep commitment to presenting our audiences with a widely diverse set of viewpoints and experiences, particularly during these consequential times. We continue to be committed to the principle that we must have diverse viewpoints on our programs, and to that end, we will redouble our efforts to seek voices that represent different parts of the political spectrum.”

David Roberts, who has no connection to NBC, summed up my point of view:

The basic dilemma facing media, which they are still trying to wriggle around (see: the McDaniel affair), is that elevating voices genuinely representative of MAGA means tolerating lies, bigotry, & anti-democratic sentiment. You can't have one without the other.

and you also might be interested in ...

I had expected the Right not to start their campaign against the 22nd Amendment (which stops presidents from running for a third term) until Trump had actually won his second. But no.

Conservatives have gritted their teeth for years as the Left, in their hatred of Trump, has attempted to pervert the meaning of first the Twenty-fifth Amendment and, more recently, the Fourteenth Amendment. The case for repealing the Twenty-second Amendment is far more straightforward: As with Prohibition, it is simply a matter of finding the will to get rid of a bad idea that needlessly limits Americans’ freedom.

And don't worry about him being five months older in 2028 than Biden is now because of "the glaringly obvious differences between the men in their brain power, physical strength, and ability to walk in a straight line".

They're clearly not seeing the fat, out-of-shape Trump I see, or listening to the incoherent speeches I hear.

The motivating vision here is of the Great Leader as president for life. Anything that stands in the way will have to go.

Crypto-currency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a multi-billion-dollar scheme that caused the collapse of FTX, the crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded. He simultaneously ran a hedge fund that made risky bets with clients' assets.

The FTX fraud has no direct connection to the Trump real-estate fraud, but it does illustrate a related point: Fraud is fraud, whether the target loses money or not. The FTX collapse started when the relationship to the hedge fund was exposed by CoinDesk. But if everyone had stayed ignorant, the risky bets might well have paid off and everyone would still have their money. That wouldn't make the whole scheme any less fraudulent.

Trump misbehaved in his typical democracy-threatening ways this week. He repeatedly attacked the adult daughter of the judge in the Stormy Daniels case. And he reposted on Truth Social a video involving a truck with a life-sized full-color back-gate image of Joe Biden bound and gagged.

Joyce Vance:

Imagine the impact all of this is having on potential witnesses and jurors in the criminal cases against Trump. If Trump can get away with threatening a Judge’s daughter, if he can do this to the President of the United States, then what’s going to happen to them if they take the witness stand against him or vote to convict?

I don't know whether Judge Juan Merchan could scare Trump straight with a few days of revoked bail pretrial detention, or whether that's what Trump wants to happen, the better to make his victimhood case to the voters. But I'm starting to think the experiment is worth trying.

The October 7 attacks unified Israel, but that unity is starting to come undone again. Sunday evening, thousands protested in Jerusalem.

But an issue most Americans never think about could be what brings down Netanyahu's coalition: the exemption of ultra-orthodox yeshiva students from the draft.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has now been under arrest in Russia for a year. Many voices in America noted the anniversary, but one did not: Trump. America-First clearly has an exception when it comes to Putin's Russia.

I had no idea how close we are to dealing with driverless trucks.

By the end of this year, the trucks will for the first time start traveling alone, without human minders like Jenkins, as two major companies — Aurora and Kodiak Robotics — launch fully autonomous trucks in Texas. ...

By default, driverless passenger vehicles and trucks can ride anywhere in the United States, unless a state explicitly says they can’t. That means companies can test and operate their vehicles across most of the country. Two dozen states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, specifically allow driverless operations, according to data compiled by Aurora, while another 16 states have no regulations specific to autonomous vehicles.

The number of jobs that could be replaced here is in the millions.

Here's what I predict: The overall accident rate of autonomous trucks will be lower than human-driven trucks, but they will have different accidents. The question is what the public will do when somebody dies in a way that would never have happened if a human were involved.

Kat Abu's summary of the week on Fox News. And I just discovered a similarly guilty pleasure: Jeff Tiedrich's "This week in stupid".

and let's close with something

For reasons I explained in the teaser, I've had to cut corners this week. The closing is supposed to be orthogonal to the news, with a touch of the humorous, amazing, uplifting, or silly. I don't have one this week, so please help me out: Talk among yourselves about suitable closings for a week like this one.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Public Investment

The great improvement in health that high-income countries experienced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was not a result of better medicine -- as William McNeill claimed -- or even economic growth per se. It was, rather, the consequence of political decisions to make massive investments in drinking water, sanitation, housing and poverty reduction.

- Jonathan Kennedy, Pathogenesis: A history of the world in eight plagues

This week's featured posts are "Is Donald Trump Still Rich?" and "What Republicans Want". The two posts together are quite long, so I'll be a little terser than usual in this weekly summary.

I intend the quote above as a general comment on the House Study Committee's report on its FY 2025 budget proposals (the subject of "What Republicans Want"). If 19th century leaders had demonized "spending" the way the HSC does, we'd still be having cholera epidemics.

This week everybody was talking about Trump's finances

At the last minute, the NY Appeals Court lowered Trump's bond to $175 million and gave him ten more days to pay. My take on the Trump-bond issue is in one of the featured posts.

The other Trump-related thing happening today is a hearing on his New York criminal case, the one concerning the fraudulent business records that hid his payoff to Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election. What most observers expect to come out of today's hearing is a trial date in April.

and funding the government

We finally have an FY 2024 budget. President Biden signed a keep-the-government open bill Saturday morning.

House conservatives are of course unhappy that the government is going to keep governing. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to recall Speaker Johnson, but did it in such a way that it won't immediately come to the floor. She's being coy about exactly what would cause her to force a vote.

and Gaza

The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a Ramadan ceasefire. The US abstained. Meanwhile, Israel agreed to a US proposal to exchange prisoners for hostages, but Hamas says there are still issues to be resolved.

An excellent Economist article outlines the problems Israel faces.

There is still narrow path out of the hellscape of Gaza. A temporary ceasefire and hostage release could cause a change of Israel’s government; the rump of Hamas fighters in south Gaza could be contained or fade away; and from the rubble, talks on a two-state solution could begin, underwritten by America and its Gulf allies. It is just as likely, however, that ceasefire talks will fail. That could leave Israel locked in the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence, featuring endless occupation, hard-right politics and isolation. Today many Israelis are in denial about this, but a political reckoning will come eventually. It will determine not only the fate of Palestinians, but also whether Israel thrives in the next 75 years.

If you are a friend of Israel this is a deeply uncomfortable moment. In October it launched a justified war of self-defence against Hamas, whose terrorists had committed atrocities that threaten the idea of Israel as a land where Jews are safe. Today Israel has destroyed perhaps half of Hamas’s forces. But in important ways its mission has failed.

The left wing of the Democratic Party has been skeptical of Israel for some while now. So it's not surprising that AOC told Jake Tapper yesterday that Israel had "crossed a threshold" that justifies use of the very serious term "genocide". Most progressives are reluctant to consider Israel's post-Holocaust mission as a special case, and instead see the Palestinians as just another victim of Western colonialism. (Among European nations, Ireland in particular identifies with Palestine, casting Israel in the role England played in Irish history, right down to causing a famine.)

What's new is that the Netanyahu government has alienated such committed pro-Israel Democrats as Chuck Schumer. It seems determined to alienate President Biden as well, as it announced an expansion of West Bank settlements (which the US regards as illegal) during a recent visit by Secretary of State Blinken. In a policy shift, the US recently backed a ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council, only to see it vetoed by Russia and China.

A recent Pew Research poll found Americans marginally supporting Israel's conduct of the war, with 38% finding it either completely or somewhat acceptable, compared to 34% who found it completely or somewhat unacceptable. This is a remarkably small margin given Americans' longstanding sympathy with Israel, and it could quickly vanish if the famine that the World Food Programme calls "imminent" becomes a reality that Americans regularly see on their TVs.

Jared Kushner is thinking about Gaza's "valuable waterfront property" that might become available for development after Israel moves current residents to the Negev Desert. (Plans for such a move have not been announced. So far, I think, this is just Jared's fantasy.)

and the Moscow terrorist attack

Armed men attacked a shopping-and-entertainment complex in Moscow Friday while a concert was underway. So far 137 people are known to be dead. An offshoot of ISIS has claimed responsibility, but Putin really wants to link Ukraine to the attack.

and you also might be interested in ...

North Carolina Republicans have gotten a lot of bad press nationally for their loony candidate for governor, Mark Robinson. But the rest of the ticket is pretty far out too. Their nominee for State Superintendent of Public Instruction is Michele Morrow, who defeated the incumbent Republican Catherine Truitt in the GOP primary.

She called public schools “socialist indoctrination centers” and accused Truitt of allowing pedophiles to flourish in schools. ... Morrow grabbed national attention last week when CNN ran a story highlighting her social media posts that advocated executing prominent Democrats, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Instead of trying to equivocate, she doubled down with a tweet accusing Obama of committing treason for drone attacks on “hundreds of innocent Muslims in Yemen.”

North Carolina is not that red a state any more. Due to gerrymandering, its legislature has a substantial Republican majority. But the state also has a two-term Democratic governor (Roy Cooper, who can't run for a third term), and Trump carried it in 2020 by less than 75K votes out of more than 5 million.

Facing attention from Congress (particularly Bernie Sanders), a couple big drug makers (AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim) cut the price of their inhalers to $35 per month from as much $645. The other two major suppliers (Teva and GSK) so far have not responded.

There's a lot of competition to be the wackiest red-state legislature, but Tennessee is definitely in the running.

Last Monday, the Tennessee Senate has passed SB2691, including an amendment "to prohibit the intentional injection, release, or dispersion, by any means, of chemicals, chemical compounds, substances, or apparatus within the borders of this state into the atmosphere with the express purpose of affecting temperature, weather, or the intensity of the sunlight". According to The Tennessean, the amendment is based on the chemtrail conspiracy theory, which holds that the contrails of airplanes contain chemicals "sprayed for nefarious purposes undisclosed to the general public".

But don't worry, good citizens of Tennessee, your legislature is on the case.

and let's close with something unexpected

Once in a while, days don't go the way you planned. Buzzerilla collects a few examples.

Monday, March 18, 2024


Strongman rule is a fantasy.  Essential to it is the idea that a strongman will be your strongman.  He won't.  In a democracy, elected representatives listen to constituents.  We take this for granted, and imagine that a dictator would owe us something. But the vote you cast for him affirms your irrelevance.  The whole point is that the strongman owes us nothing.  We get abused and we get used to it.

- Timothy Snyder "The Strongman Fantasy"

This week's featured posts are "The Other Reason I'm Optimistic" about the 2024 election and "The 'bloodbath' statement".

This week everybody was talking about bloodbaths

I was going to summarize the controversy over Trump's prediction of "a bloodbath" if he doesn't get elected, but the length got out of hand, so I made it a featured post.

and Florida

Ron DeSantis suffered two major defeats this month in his war on woke. The first was two weeks ago, when a federal appeals court blocked enforcement of one provision of his Stop-Woke law. The opinion, written by a Trump appointee, lays things out pretty clearly.

Here's a short version: Among other things, the law bans employers from having mandatory meetings where they promote certain notions that state doesn't like about discrimination, diversity, and so forth. On its face, this sounds like a violation of the employers' freedom of speech, but the DeSantis administration claims it's really a limitation on conduct (holding these meetings), not speech.

The judge rightly points out that mandatory meetings are only banned if certain ideas are presented, so there's no way to know ahead of time whether a meeting is banned without knowing what people are going to say. That makes it a limitation on speech.

The second defeat was the settlement of a lawsuit against DeSantis' Don't Say Gay law. The worst thing about Don't Say Gay has been the vagueness of it. Nobody knew exactly what ideas the law banned from Florida schools, so teachers and administrators who wanted to be safe just wouldn't say anything at all about non-traditional gender roles or sexuality.

Under the agreement, the state must clarify the law’s scope to schools across the state, ensuring that, among other things, it does not prohibit references to LGBTQ+ persons, couples, families, or issues in literature or classroom discussions.

and the Trump trials

The trial that we thought was on track fell off track, and another one got rolling again.

The New York state trial for the pre-2016-election cover-up of the Stormy Daniels payments was supposed to start next Monday, but it's delayed into at least April. At issue are some documents that just got released by the US Attorney's office, and whether the defense has had adequate time to review them.

In the Georgia RICO trial, the judge has allowed Fani Willis' office to go forward, after removing Willis' ex-lover from the prosecution team. If the judge had disqualified Willis, it's not clear when or whether the case would have proceeded. No trial date has yet been set.

but I want to call your attention to two books

One of my favorite observers of the intersection of technology and society is Cory Doctorow. He currently has two new books out, one fiction and one non-fiction.

The novel is The Lost Cause which takes place in a late-2030s California dealing with a much-advanced climate crisis, as well as the residue of our current political polarization. The country has had 12 years of Green New Deal administrations, and is now going through a backlash that includes a lot of old white guys in MAGA militias. To me, it's ambiguous whether the "lost cause" in the title is the MAGA effort to maintain white male privilege or the Green New Deal effort to save the world itself.

Two things stand out: Climate-change futurism tends to bifurcate simplistically into we-save-the-world or we-don't-save-the-world. I found it enlightening to spend time in a world where a lot of bad things have happened, but the struggle goes on. There's a lot in this novel that is dystopian and a lot that is hopeful.

Second, I think Doctorow is right about where MAGA is headed with regard to climate change. Right now, the MAGA consensus is to ignore the problem. (Trump wants to be a dictator on Day 1 so that he can "drill, drill, drill".) But in Doctorow's future, they turned on a dime from "it's a hoax" to "not everybody is going to make it, so we have to make sure our people do". Climate change has become one more justification for anti-immigrant fascism.

The nonfiction book is The Internet Con: how to seize the means of computation. He emphasizes that the current tech and social media giants are not natural outcomes of the free market, but stem from changes in the laws, especially antitrust enforcement and copyright laws.

It's not that there was one magical generation of entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, et al, but that the leading corporations at a particular moment in history were allowed to cement themselves into place and insulate themselves from competition.

For example, your email app doesn't own your email files, but Facebook owns your Facebook posts, which you'll lose if you close your account. As a result, you can change email clients whenever you want, but switching from Facebook to some other social media platform is much more arduous. You can send email to people who use other email apps, but you can't see X/Twitter messages on BlueSky.

The result is what Doctorow has elsewhere called the "enshittification" of the internet. Companies can implement policies for their own advantage rather than yours, and there's little you can do about it.

The book is full of suggestions for how to turn this around.

and you also might be interested in ...

The House passed a ban/forced-sale of TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company and heavily influenced by the Chinese government. What will happen next is unclear.

Trump abruptly switched his position on this issue: He tried to ban TikTok by executive order when he was president, but now he's against the legislative ban. The flipflop closely followed a meeting with conservative financier Jeff Yass, who is heavily invested in TikTok.

Have I mentioned that Trump needs a lot of money?

I really enjoy this Biden ad, especially the last few seconds.

Russia held its version of an election, and you'll never guess what happened: Putin was reelected to a fifth term as president with 87% of the vote. There were other names on the ballot, but only the ones Putin allowed to be there. No candidate was vocally anti-Putin or against the Ukraine War.

Supporters of Alexei Navalny (who wanted to run against Putin, but instead died in prison), staged a subtle protest by all showing up to vote at noon. The long lines at the polling places were, in effect, Navalny demonstrations.

Russian prosecutors threatened any voters who took part in the “noon against Putin” action with five years in prison. In the southern city of Kazan, police detained more than 20 voters who had joined the protest, according to the independent rights monitor OVD-Info. Arrests were also reported in Moscow and St Petersburg.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the government finds to charge these people with.

When we talk about climate change, we usually focus on rising air temperatures. But maybe we should be paying more attention to how fast the oceans are heating up.

A rule change could make it much harder to go "judge shopping".

and let's close with something backwards

Tim Blais is one of those people whose collection of talents seems unfair. He's musical, does great videos, and also knows a lot of science. His A Capella Science YouTube channel has some amazing stuff, like a Billy Joel parody "The Arrow of Entropic Time".