Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020


Landscape G.O.A.T.

It's hard to stand out as the weirdest moment of the weirdest year in our lifetimes. And yet, in 2020, we did have an undisputed winner of this dubious honor. It was the most joked about, meme-able moment of the year. It drove the creation and sales of T-shirts and other related merch. I'm wearing a shirt. A photo from the event is my Zoom background. It was both ridiculous and sadly meaningful; a hat tip to four years of craziness and a foreshadowing of the weeks to come. No one has told the stories of the weirdness of this era better than NY Mag's Olivia Nuzzi. So I'll pass it over to her for The Full(est Possible) Story of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping Press Conference. "Whether it's war and peace or public relations and gardening, sorting out the truth is a complicated endeavor when it relates to Donald Trump. Everyone involved in anything, no matter the size, no matter how stupid, seems to lie as a first resort, or to know very little, or to lie about knowing very little, or to know just enough to send blame in another direction, and the person in that direction seems to lie also, or to know very little, or to lie about knowing very little, but perhaps they have a theory that sends blame someplace else, and over there, too, you will find more liars, more know-nothings, and before long, a whole month will have passed, and you still haven't filed your story about how the president's attorney wound up undermining democracy in a parking lot off I-95 on a strip of cracked pavement in a run-down part of a city that ordinarily would command no consideration from the national political class or the very online public or the equally online mainstream media, which, when forced to look, found lots of reason to laugh." (No one expected the most memorable moment of the most memorable year of the Trump era to be a moment of truth.)


The Tears of a Clown

"'Sadly, Mitch forgot,' reads the top of the slide sent to Republican senators by Trump's personal assistant, written in red for emphasis. "He was the first one off the ship.'" Every enabler will ultimately be thrown under the Trump bus. McConnell just had his turn. And next up is Mike Pence: "Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal — and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egg him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House." Axios: Trump turns on everyone. (It will take a while before Pence's lips can be pried from Trump's ass so he can respond. But in the meantime, he continued to support the president's effort to spread the virus as much as possible.)

+ "Trump's efforts to cling to power are unprecedented in American history. While political parties have fought over the results of presidential elections before, no incumbent president has ever made such expansive and individualized pleas to the officials who oversee certification of the election results. Trump even used his presidential perch to compel officials to talk with him, summoning state officials to the White House on a few-hours notice and insisting that his outreach was simply part of his presidential duties." Politico: Inside Trump's pressure campaign to overturn the election.



"That would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in World War I and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46% that year, compared with 1917." US deaths in 2020 top 3 million, by far most ever counted.

+ There was one continent that had escaped Covid's wrath. But with the Chilean army reporting 36 cases at its Bernardo O'Higgins research station, the streak is over. Coronavirus spreads to Antarctic research station. That's cold, Covid.


Snap Into a Slim Stim

"Perhaps just as important, they delivered a template for the kind of bipartisan deal-making that will be crucial to getting Congress to function again in the Biden era, when tiny majorities in both chambers will force the parties to find their way to the center to accomplish any major initiative." NYT: A Dinner, a Deal and Moonshine: How the Stimulus Came Together.

+ A bright spot in a stimulus bill that is probably too small and definitely way late:
New stimulus bill includes $35.2 billion for new energy initiatives. AP: Congress takes aim at climate change in massive relief bill.

+ Senator Amy Klobuchar Explains $15 Billion Save Our Stages Act. (For those about to rock, we'll need some venues still in business.)


Mode DeJoy

"Competing crises are slamming the U.S. Postal Service just days before Christmas, imperiling the delivery of millions of packages, as the agency contends with spiking coronavirus cases in its workforce, unprecedented volumes of e-commerce orders and the continuing fallout from a hobbled cost-cutting program launched by the postmaster general." WaPo: Millions of Christmas presents may arrive late because of Postal Service delays. (Millions of Americans may not have minded when the postal service was intentionally slowed to steal the election, but THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!)


Alex Officio

"It is a historic choice in a state where Latinos now make up the largest ethnic group but have rarely seen representation at the highest rungs of power." Newsom names Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris — first Latino to represent California in Senate."


Read Between the Lines

"It isn't clear who the thief or thieves are, or even how they might profit from the scheme. High-profile authors like Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan have been targeted, along with celebrities like Ethan Hawke. But short story collections and works by little-known debut writers have been attacked as well, even though they would have no obvious value on the black market. In fact, the manuscripts do not appear to wind up on the black market at all, or anywhere on the dark web, and no ransoms have been demanded. When copies of the manuscripts get out, they just seem to vanish. So why is this happening?" NYT: Why on Earth Is Someone Stealing Unpublished Book Manuscripts?


Cadet Tu, West Point?

"Seventy-three suspected cheaters, one critical mistake. Dozens of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were caught cheating on a calculus final exam in May after they all made the same errors on the test, according to officials." More Than 70 West Point Cadets Accused Of Cheating. (Emulating their commander in chief...)


Boss Mode

Kelly Loeffler still has a good shot at holding on to her Senate seat. But she has fully lost the support of the WNBA team she owns. They are all in for her opponent.


Bottom of the News

"Influence isn't necessarily a positive thing, either; the list includes plenty of figures with complicated legacies. Some make movies. Some make laws. Some sing. Some tweet. One broke a record for the 100-meter dash at 99 years old." The Most Influential 80-Plus-Year-Olds in America.

+ Some guy drove around LA and recorded random influencers doing the cringiest poses in public.

+ Being a federal air marshall is a hard job. But apparently, not hard enough.