Winter? What winter? What’s a ‘winter?’

Climate crisis

When I woke up and looked at the weather report this morning, it was 59° F. As I was driving home—I quit around sunset—the thermometer reading in my dashboard told me it was 72-73° F. As I was fixing dinner, I received repeated warnings of impending thunderstorms—it might be quite a night. There is, of course, no snow on the ground.

I’ve been remembering, from my time here 50 years ago, walking door-to-door with a snow shovel, realizing that as I walked up people’s walks through freshly-fallen snow, I was compacting it beneath my footsteps such that it would adhere to the concrete below, making my own job harder. I had no idea what to do about that.

It’s certainly not a problem this year. The maintenance folks at my apartment complex usually (they missed one day) douse the walks and parking lots heavily with salt whenever snow or ice threatens.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been cold days and even snowy days. But the snow melts within a few days and I’m still not wearing winter clothing—I wear a Gore Tex windbreaker I bought for San Francisco Bay Area rain, not my heavy winter coat, and I’m still wearing sandals—because the effort required to don winter clothing seems wildly disproportionate to any fleeting discomfort I might feel in my brief exposures to the cold.
RAYGRAPHIC
Fig. 1. Pittsburgh snowfall by decade. Graphic by Ray Petelin, January 9, 2020.[1] Fair use.

But if a local meteorologist is to be believed, it actually turns out that this has not been an exceptionally low-snow decade.[2] I honestly don’t know how to reconcile his chart (figure 1) with, for examples, my mother’s ongoing terror of a Pittsburgh winter (she grew up here in the 1940s and 1950s) or what I hear from just about everyone. Something’s clearly off kilter there because contrary to what he says, what I hear even from younger folks is that there is less snow than there used to be. Those who were here for it recall an exceptional blizzard in the late 1990s, a much lower-snow decade than the 2010s, let alone the 1960s (I was here for a couple years in the 1960s).

I have to think that total snowfall in each decade is somehow—this would actually be a good human science question—the wrong measure for people’s experience of snow and cold.

Robinson Meyer, “Australia Will Lose to Climate Change,” Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/australia-caught-climate-spiral/604423/

Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/


Ireland

Kate Devlin and Oliver Wright, “DUP and Sinn Fein agree deal to revive Stormont assembly,” Times, January 11, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/northern-ireland-s-power-sharing-government-is-expected-to-be-restored-within-days-after-sinn-fein-and-the-democratic-unionist-party-signed-up-to-a-draft-deal-brokered-by-the-british-and-irish-governments-three-years-after-sinn-fein-walked-out-gsk0sph39


Israel

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-blow-to-netanyahu-knesset-legal-adviser-said-set-to-okay-immunity-debate/


  1. [1]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/
  2. [2]Ray Petelin, “Pittsburgh Weather: Did You Really See More Snow When You Were A Kid?” KDKA, January 9, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/09/did-you-really-see-more-snow-when-you-were-a-kid/

Revelation! I am not white. This explains everything!

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Fig. 1. Comic by Matt Pritchett of the Telegraph, via his newsletter, otherwise unpublished, December 1, 2019.


Appalachia

Sam Adler-Bell, “Appalachia vs. the Carceral State,” New Republic, November 25, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/155660/appalachia-coal-mining-mountaintop-removal-prison-fight


Racism

Never mind that I am ethnically British, German, and a little French, or that I have pale skin. Or that my heritage is, regrettably, Christian and, even more regrettably, Mormon. Or that I drive down the roads of the Pittsburgh area with very little fear of police even when I’m on my way to district courts where it seems I only pick up Black men in trouble with their drivers’ licenses. It seems none of that matters.

By the logic that I am denied access to certain resources, like a real fucking job,[1] it seems I’m at least as non-white as Ashkenazi Jews.[2] I’m pretty sure my mother will find this news astonishing.

Or maybe Ashkenazi Jews can stop reifying white supremacist bullshit. For fuck’s sake.

Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]Masha Kisel, “How does it feel to be white?” Times of Israel, November 29, 2019, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-does-it-feel-to-be-white/

Not the good kind of acid

There is a correction in the previous issue.


Ohio River

April Johnston, “‘That’s vinegar:’ The Ohio River’s history of contamination and progress made,” Environmental Health News, November 14, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/ohio-river-pollution-cleanup-2641307895.html


Hong Kong

The appearance of the People’s Liberation Army, that is, Mainland China’s army, on the streets of Hong Kong was relatively benign: They cleared roadblocks set up by protesters. But everyone understands the implicit threat of possible intervention.[1]

John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250


  1. [1]John Lyons, Steven Russolillo, and Eun-Young Jeong, “Mainland Chinese Soldiers Take to Hong Kong Streets for First Time During Protests,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mainland-chinese-soldiers-take-to-hong-kong-streets-for-first-time-since-protests-began-11573907250

Scottish parliament to vote on Brexit: Daily Bullshit, February 7-10, 2017 (updated 3x)

Updated for

  1. the appeals court hearing on Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.[1]
  2. for more on the hearing,[2] for a rather alarming story on trust in the media,[3] for the outcome of the British parliament’s vote on Brexit,[4] for the outcome (I missed this earlier) of the Scottish Parliament’s vote on the same issue,[5] and for an article on why it’s right to call it a Muslim ban.[6] On the latter point, I’d just point to that C-5A-sized loophole about how more—an unspecified number—countries might be added later. But perhaps we could start with Indonesia. Which we probably can’t tell from Pakistan anyway.
  3. for the outcome of the hearing[7] and for the Sioux running out of legal options to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.[8]

Scottish independence

I’m unclear on the point. We already know that Scotland’s electorate opposed Brexit[9] and we have little reason to suspect that’s changed. But we also know that most Scots oppose another referendum on independence at this time,[10] which suggests rather strongly to me that one would not pass. And finally, we know that, as an entity, Scotland is effectively invisible to the European Union, that it is entirely subject to whatever Article 50 deal Britain negotiates with the Union.[11] So the only way that Scotland can negotiate access to the EU is to be independent, which its voters apparently do not want. I’m really not seeing the way forward here.

Deutschewelle, “Scotland to hold nonbinding vote on rejecting Brexit,” February 6, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/scotland-to-hold-nonbinding-vote-on-rejecting-brexit/a-37425380

British Broadcasting Corporation, “Holyrood votes against triggering Brexit,” February 7, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-38880999


Dakota Access Pipeline

Steve Almasy, “Dakota Access Pipeline: Army issuing final permit,” CNN, February 7, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/07/politics/dakota-access-pipeline-easement-granted/index.html

Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester, “North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline,” Reuters, February 8, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/usth-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN15N2HP


Muslim Ban

The short version is that Trump “lost dramatically and completely.”[12]

I previously discussed my surprise over the clumsy performance of the Justice Department in defending the Trump executive order on immigration. Those concerns were magnified after the oral argument before the Ninth Circuit that was made available on YouTube. The performance by August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant U.S. attorney general, was surprisingly lackluster and seemingly ill-prepared. The shaky start that I described earlier seems now to be seismic as the Justice Department stumbles toward a ruling that can come as early as today. As Flentje observed during his uninspired argument “I’m not sure I’m convincing the court.”[13]

Jonathan Turley relies on a general rule that courts generally defer to the executive branch on national security matters.[14] So far, that seems not to be holding this time,[15] probably because, whoops:

The tendency by judges not to question the president on national security issues is rooted in the belief that the president, aided by national security advisors and the wealth of information at their disposal, is in the best position to make such decisions, said Matt Waxman, a national security law expert at Columbia University.

“But I’d argue that is a customary practice that is heavily reliant on the credibility of the executive branch,” said Waxman, who served on the National Security Council and in the State Department under President George W. Bush.[16]

One thing I would not say about the Trump administration is that it is credible.

Trump, Waxman said, “squandered a lot of that credibility” with his “wild and shifting claims about national security” and his unorthodox decision not to seek input from national security experts before rolling out the travel ban.

“I think it is quite possible and even likely the courts will not show the president the same level of deference they have shown previous presidents on national security,” he said.

Shirin Sinnar, a national security expert at Stanford Law School, echoed Waxman.

“It is a unique situation here,” she said. “We know national security agencies were sidelined, so it is hard to see how this idea of the executive branch being entitled to deference would apply.”[17]

And there is a more substantial defense of the order offered by Jonathan Hafetz.[18] Then there’s Amy Davidson’s impression, in which the government’s performance at the hearing appears truly awful.[19] Turley believes the order is defensible and he “believe[s] that the weight of binding authority on these trial courts favors President Trump,”[20] and, to say the least, this is a high-profile case, which is to say that poorly-performing lawyers will surely be embarrassed.

That Justice Department lawyers are nonetheless performing so poorly in a high-profile case catches my attention. It’s true they had been told not to defend the order by an acting Attorney General[21] who was subsequently fired[22] and therefore may have had less time to prepare a defense of the order. But in my dealings with lawyers over the years, I have become suspicious that lawyers may not always actually act in their clients’ best interests, that sometimes when they believe when to do so would be to act in the interest of justice, they may intentionally lose a case. Trump can fire an acting attorney general; I’m not so sure he’s persuaded the attorneys at the Justice Department.

By the way, I suppose I should emphasize that all this is over a temporary restraining order. In theory, Trump might still prevail at trial. But he’s surely going to have to up his game to do that.

Devlin Barrett, Brent Kendall, and Aruna Viswanatha, “Court Grills Lawyers on Donald Trump’s Immigration Order,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-immigration-action-in-courts-hands-1486491207

Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html

Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies

Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/

Austin Wright, “Top Democrat: U.S. allies see Trump order as Muslim ban,” Politico, February 8, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-muslim-ban-us-allies-ben-cardin-234799

Josh Gerstein, “3 key Trump mistakes that led to the travel ban court defeat,” Politico, February 9, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/3-key-trump-mistakes-that-led-to-travel-ban-court-defeat-234884

Richard Primus, “Will the Supreme Court Back Trump?” Politico, February 10, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/will-the-scotus-back-trump-214763

Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration


Trust in Media

It seems to me that journalists need to get on top of this. Now.

Joe Concha, “Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll,” Hill, February 8, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/media/318514-trump-admin-seen-as-more-truthful-than-news-media-poll


Brexit

Angela Dewan and Simon Cullen, “House of Commons OKs Brexit bill,” CNN, February 8, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/europe/brexit-bill-parliament-vote-article-50/index.html


  1. [1]Devlin Barrett, Brent Kendall, and Aruna Viswanatha, “Court Grills Lawyers on Donald Trump’s Immigration Order,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-immigration-action-in-courts-hands-1486491207
  2. [2]Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/
  3. [3]Joe Concha, “Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll,” Hill, February 8, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/media/318514-trump-admin-seen-as-more-truthful-than-news-media-poll
  4. [4]Angela Dewan and Simon Cullen, “House of Commons OKs Brexit bill,” CNN, February 8, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/europe/brexit-bill-parliament-vote-article-50/index.html
  5. [5]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Holyrood votes against triggering Brexit,” February 7, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-38880999
  6. [6]Austin Wright, “Top Democrat: U.S. allies see Trump order as Muslim ban,” Politico, February 8, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-muslim-ban-us-allies-ben-cardin-234799
  7. [7]Josh Gerstein, “3 key Trump mistakes that led to the travel ban court defeat,” Politico, February 9, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/3-key-trump-mistakes-that-led-to-travel-ban-court-defeat-234884; Richard Primus, “Will the Supreme Court Back Trump?” Politico, February 10, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/will-the-scotus-back-trump-214763; Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  8. [8]Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester, “North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline,” Reuters, February 8, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/usth-dakota-pipeline-idUSKBN15N2HP
  9. [9]Peter Geoghegan, “Scots against Brexit,” Deutschewelle, June 18, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/scotland-plays-it-cool-over-brexit-debate/a-19326241; Peter Geoghegan, “Scotland eyes British exit,” Politico, October 12, 2016, http://www.politico.eu/article/all-eyes-on-scotland-scottish-national-party-conference-nicola-sturgeon/; Peter Geoghegan, “Scottish nationalists huddle to talk Brexit, independence,” Deutschewelle, October 12, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/scottish-nationalists-huddle-to-talk-brexit-independence/a-36015386; Rowena Lindsay, “Scotland revives independence bid in wake of Brexit vote,” Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 2016, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/0902/Scotland-revives-independence-bid-in-wake-of-Brexit-vote; MercoPress, “Scotland ‘undoubtedly’ closer to an independence referendum,” January 18, 2017, http://en.mercopress.com/2017/01/18/scotland-undoubtedly-closer-to-an-independence-referendum; Nicholas Winning, “Scotland to Consider New Independence Referendum Bill,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/scotland-to-consider-new-independence-referendum-bill-1476363221
  10. [10]Elisabeth O’Leary, “Scottish independence vote may be decided ‘within weeks’: Sturgeon ally,” Reuters, February 5, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-scotland-idUSKBN15K0UA
  11. [11]Gabriela Baczynska, “European Commission says after Brexit vote: Scotland part of UK,” Reuters, June 25, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-scotland-commission-idUSKCN0ZB0LQ; Telegraph, “Spain rejects Nicola Sturgeon Brexit plan for Scotland in seemingly fatal blow,” December 22, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/spain-rejects-nicola-sturgeon-brexit-plan-scotland-seemingly/
  12. [12]Jeffery Toobin, quoted in Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  13. [13]Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Deliberates Appeal Over Trump Executive Order,” February 8, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/08/ninth-circuit-deliberates-appeal-over-trump-executive-order/
  14. [14]Jonathan Turley, “Judges In Seattle and Boston Reach Opposing Opinions On Trump Executive Order,” February 4, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/04/108507/; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Rejects Motion For Immediate Reinstatement Of Executive Order But Schedules Expedited Argument For Monday,” February 5, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/05/ninth-circuit-rejects-motion-for-immediate-reinstatement-of-executive-order-but-schedules-expedited-argument-for-monday/; Jonathan Turley, “Ninth Circuit Briefing Completed Today For Ruling On Trump Appeal,” February 6, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/06/ninth-circuit-briefing-completed-today-for-ruling-on-trump-appeal/
  15. [15]Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, “Trump furious after court upholds block on travel ban,” CNN, February 10, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/09/politics/travel-ban-9th-circuit-ruling-immigration
  16. [16]Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html
  17. [17]Joel Rubin, “Courts rarely second-guess the president on national security. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, experts said,” Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-live-updates-9th-circuit-arguments-courts-have-been-reluctant-to-1486509412-htmlstory.html
  18. [18]Jonathan Hafetz, “Why Courts Appear Willing to Reject Trump’s Travel Ban Order,” Lawfare, February 6, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/37388/courts-reject-trumps-travel-ban-order/
  19. [19]Amy Davidson, “The Ninth Circuit and President Trump’s Lies,” New Yorker, February 8, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/the-ninth-circuit-and-president-trumps-lies
  20. [20]Jonathan Turley, “Judges In Seattle and Boston Reach Opposing Opinions On Trump Executive Order,” February 4, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/04/108507/
  21. [21]Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky, “Acting attorney general declares Justice Department won’t defend Trump’s immigration order,” Washington Post, January 30, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/30/trump-says-all-is-going-well-on-immigration-order-amid-questions-and-confusion/
  22. [22]Jordan Fabian, “Trump fires acting AG for refusing to defend travel ban,” Hill, January 30, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/317018-trump-fires-acting-ag-for-refusing-to-defend-travel-ban