Steve Jobs may be dead, but his reality distortion field lives on:

The speculative frenzy that always precedes a new iPhone has been supercharged in anticipation of the 10th-anniversary release expected later this year. Analysts in research reports have predicted the phone will be one of Apple’s most revolutionary, with some suggesting it will come in three sizes instead of the usual two, with a case made almost entirely of glass and possibly wireless-charging capability.

At least one of the anniversary phones is expected to have an OLED screen, technology that would make the device thinner and lighter. The display, on top of its being an anniversary edition, has led to speculation that Apple could charge record prices for it, said Steven Milunovich, an analyst with UBS.

Three sizes! Wireless charging! An OLED screen! All for a mere thousand dollars.

The sleazy marketing part of me admires the hell out of Apple. They have somehow built up a customer base so loyal that they can explicitly follow a strategy of staying two years behind everyone else and then incorporating whatever features turn out to be popular. Their loyal customers are, apparently, OK with paying astronomical prices for the privilege of always lacking the latest and greatest features. Because it's Apple.

When I switched from an iPhone to an Android phone several years ago, it took me literally no more than a day to get accustomed to the new UI. Phone interfaces, after all, are designed to be super simple, and the iPhone and Android UIs aren't really all that different to begin with. But iPhone users remain fanatically loyal for reasons that escape me. I wonder if this bubble is ever going to burst?

What's the best way for a foreign leader to handle Donald Trump? The last few days have shown us the two approaches that are likely to become most common. The question every leader has to ask is: Should you be a man1 or should you be a mouse?

The Mouse Approach: Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe gave a master class in this technique over the weekend. Trump tried to humiliate him with a monster handshake, and Abe let him. He fawned over Trump's superior golf game. As near as we can tell, he was willing to abase himself endlessly in service of his larger goal: getting Trump to become Japan's BFF. You could practically see the gears turning in Abe's head as he went through with this.2

The Man Approach: This morning, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau took the opposite tack. As Trump closed in for the alpha-dog hand-on-the-shoulder handshake, Trudeau beat him to it. And when Trump suggested another handshake for the cameras, Reuters captured this soon-to-be-classic photo:

Which will work better? Suckering Trump into thinking he's got your number? Or trying to earn Trump's respect by showing you won't be intimidated? Decisions, decisions.

1Or a woman.

2Oh to be a fly on the wall when the Japanese team was alone. I can only imagine what they really think of Trump.

Cops and firefighters voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in Iowa and are now shocked—shocked!—to learn that Republicans are anti-union. The latest attempt to destroy public sector unions exempts public safety employees, but that isn't mollifying anyone:

Hundreds of helmeted firefighters have flooded the Statehouse in the last week and police officers and sheriffs have lined up at committee hearings to speak against it. They don’t trust that this carve-out for their jobs will last long, nor do many of them feel it’s appropriate to deny the bargaining rights they have to fellow workers who have also had them for over 40 years.

....That has many police officer, who voted for Republicans in large numbers this year, particularly upset. “It’s collective begging, that’s what it is,” Thomas labeled the bill at a subcommittee hearing. “Half of law enforcement folks I work with are Republicans. And we voted for Republicans because of conservative values. But we didn’t vote for Republicans to get stabbed in the back while we’re trying to dodge cars and bullets.

It's not exactly a well-kept secret that Republicans have spent the last hundred years opposed to unions, and the last 30 or 40 actively trying to destroy public-sector unions. What did these guys expect? Do their union leaders do anything at all other than issue bulletins whenever some Black Lives Matter protester says something they don't like?

I've put up this chart before, but it's worth putting up again. This is President Trump's job approval rating since Inauguration Day:

I've read a bunch of stories saying that Trump's job approval has cratered since he took office, but that's not really true: it's gone up two points. Now, it's also true that his disapproval rating has skyrocketed, which means that his net approval rating (approve minus disapprove) has gone down (from +3 to -6.4).

My take is simple: this means that his fans like him more than ever, while everyone else dislikes him more than ever. Perhaps this level of polarization is normal these days. But it's a little more complicated than "Trump's job approval has gone down."

Bloomberg reports that foreigners are tripping over themselves to unload their holdings of US treasuries:

In the age of Trump, America’s biggest foreign creditors are suddenly having second thoughts about financing the U.S. government.

....From Tokyo to Beijing and London, the consensus is clear: few overseas investors want to step into the $13.9 trillion U.S. Treasury market right now. Whether it’s the prospect of bigger deficits and more inflation under President Donald Trump or higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve, the world’s safest debt market seems less of a sure thing — particularly after the upswing in yields since November. And then there is Trump’s penchant for saber rattling, which has made staying home that much easier.

....Combined with the unpredictability of Trump’s tweet storms, interest-rate increases in the U.S. could further sap overseas demand....Right now, it’s just “much easier to stay home than go abroad,” said Shyam Rajan, Bank of America’s head of U.S. rates strategy.

Hmmm. The age of Trump? According to the Treasury Department, the selloff started in June:

Preliminary figures from Japan suggest that December will be much the same as November, which means foreigners will have sold off nearly a half-trillion dollars worth of treasuries in six months. That's 7 percent of their total holdings. The only other time there's been a selloff this sustained was at the tail end of the dotcom boom.

But is it Trump's fault? Nobody thought he had a chance of winning until November, so it's hard to see how he could have caused uneasiness with federal debt back in June. I don't imagine Trump has done the US debt market any favors, but on this score, at least, I suspect he's getting more blame than he deserves.

I'm not a music person, so I have no particular personal opinion about Beyoncé's musical powers. However, I do have an opinion about the increasingly tedious insistence that every time she shows her face publicly she has absolutely crushed, slayed, and otherwise annihilated every other musician currently alive or who has ever lived. I figured the same thing would happen tonight at the Grammys. Sure enough, the Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon posted a thousand-word review of her performance that is, in tribute to Beyoncé's reality-warping power, time-stamped an hour before she actually performed. Here's a sample:

It’s a remarkable feat to resuscitate a nation while simultaneously taking their breath away, but such is the otherworldly power of Beyoncé...spiritual, sweeping...ethereal glow...jaw-dropping...leaps and bounds ahead of all her peers...trippy, spellbinding...a tribute to healing and resilience...Glorious is certainly one word to describe Sunday night’s galvanizing affair...ambitious, artistically audacious...she rises, and she lifts us up with her bold performance...gorgeous, provocative...It was glorious.

I assume the second use of "glorious" is because Fallon ran out of entries in his thesaurus.

Come on, folks. Beyoncé may be the best performer working today—I wouldn't know—but can we start treating her like an actual human being? This stuff is just embarrassing.

Here is more on President Trump's reading habits:

While Mr. Obama liked policy option papers that were three to six single-spaced pages, council staff members are now being told to keep papers to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps. “The president likes maps,” one official said.

One page with lots of graphics and maps? Is there room for any words at all? Hell, even comic books have words. We also learn this:

Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.

Congress keeps getting in his way! But I guess that's not going to last long. Here is Stephen Miller on Face the Nation, where John Dickerson asked him about yet another branch of government that's been getting in Trump's way:

We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government....The idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Tough talk! Dickerson also asked Miller what Trump is planning to do about North Korea's "intolerable" ballistic missile test yesterday:

MILLER: So you saw the president following through on exactly what he said he would. He went out last night in front of the TV cameras and stood shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister of Japan and sent a message to the whole world that we stand with our allies....

DICKERSON: So no other show of strength in terms of military —

MILLER: That show last night was a show of strength, saying that we stand with our ally. Having the two men appear on camera worldwide to all of planet earth was a statement that will be understood very well by North Korea.

That's...not so tough. In political movies, the final act often has the president going in front of the cameras and saying something strong and resolute—which somehow makes the opposition melt away. I guess Miller and Trump believe this is how the real world works too. Merely appearing on camera is a show of strength that will surely stop these North Korean tests in their tracks.

Then again, Trump has warned us many times that he doesn't like to signal military action before it happens. Maybe he's planning to lob a nuke at Pyongyang on Monday. Can anyone say for sure that he won't?

Your Morning Trump

First up, here is Haaretz today on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's phone conversation with President Trump a couple of weeks ago:

Netanyahu said that he told Trump that he supports the two-state solution and a final status agreement, but stressed that he told the president that the Palestinians are unwilling and detailed the reasons why a peace deal cannot be reached at this time...."Trump believes in a deal and in running peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," Netanyahu stressed. "We should be careful and not do things that will cause everything to break down. We mustn't get into a confrontation with him."

The strong implication here is that Netanyahu has no intention of negotiating a two-state final agreement, but he's telling everyone to smile and nod when Trump insists on trying to broker one. Eventually Trump will give up, and in the meantime he has to be suckered into believing that Israel was earnest about a peace deal all along.

Next up, a Trump friend throws Reince Priebus under the bus:

One of President Trump’s longtime friends made a striking move on Sunday: After talking privately with the president over drinks late Friday, Christopher Ruddy publicly argued that Trump should replace his White House chief of staff.

....Ruddy went on to detail his critique of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus: “It’s my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it’s pretty clear the guy is in way over his head. He’s not knowledgeable of how federal agencies work, how the communications operations work. He botched this whole immigration rollout. This should’ve been a win for Donald, not two or three weeks of negative publicity.”

The fact that Ruddy said this on national TV and then to the Post right after talking with Trump means that he must have Trump's implicit blessing to run this up the flagpole and see what happens. It's remarkable that there are so many rumors about senior administration officials leaving or getting fired a mere three weeks into Trump's term.

And speaking of senior officials, the odious Stephen Miller was on TV this morning, and with only a couple of exceptions nearly every word out of his mouth about voter fraud was a lie:

Here's a detailed takedown of Miller's claim that 14 percent of all noncitizens are registered to vote. Here's the Washington Post with "bushels of Pinocchios" in a long fact check of everything Miller said. And here's Josh Marshall pointing out that Miller also lied this morning about foreigners pouring into the country to plot acts of terrorism. Naturally Trump was delighted: "Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!"

I honestly don't know how TV networks should handle the Trump White House. On the one hand, they have to cover the president. And that means putting his aides on the air.

On the other hand, his aides have made it clear that they will use these opportunities to flatly lie over and over and over. They don't care if the interviewer badgers them for evidence and they don't even care if the interviewer chastises them for fibbing. They just want to give their lies a public airing, and they know that most of the audience can't judge who's right and probably doesn't trust TV interviewers all that much anyway. And unlike print reporters, TV folks pretty much have to allow unedited remarks to go on the air.

So what's the answer? This is not a new problem, but the scale has changed so much under Trump that it might as well be new.

Health Update

Nothing new to report this month. My immune system is fine. My platelets are fine. My calcium is fine, my lactate dehydrogenase is fine, my liver is fine, my creatinine is fine, and my beta-2 microglobulins are fine. And of course, my all-important M-protein level is stable, which means the cancer is being held at bay. For now, everything is just fine.

Am I wearing out my welcome with all my little lists? Maybe, but it occurred to me yesterday that we needed a record of the never-ending flow of leaks from the White House (and elsewhere) that are seemingly designed to show what an idiot Donald Trump is. Leaks, of course, are common, but leaks designed to embarrass the president aren't. Especially in the first month of a new administration.

So here it is. It might not be exhaustive, but I tried to include everything that Google and I could remember. Additions welcome.