Here in New York City, roads are now shut down to non-emergency traffic, and authorities are telling drivers they'll get fined if they don't comply. Above-ground parts of the subway system are about to close. The storm, stronger than forecast up here in New York, willcontinue until late into the night and dump even more snow—making it a storm likely to earn a place in the record books (though where it will rank for snowfall we won't know until it's all over). Slate is reporting that at the time of writing Washington, D.C.'s total snowfall stands at 14.9 inches. There's coastal flooding in New Jersey (watch the footage here.) CNN is reporting that 9000-plus flights have been canceled.
Even though it may be beautiful and exciting, all this nature gets old really fast. With so little to do right now but snack and surrender to television coverage, find some relief in these amazing Instagram videos of dogs having a wonderful time in the snow. Enjoy.
Warning! I have not followed Deflategate except in passing.1 I don't have the kind of grassy knoll knowledge of what happened that lots of people seem to. The naive question that I'm about to pose may inspire jeers in those of you who have immersed yourselves in it.
Anyway: the first thing that I and thousands of other geeky types thought of when Deflategate first burst onto the scene was the Ideal Gas Law. I didn't actually try to calculate anything, but I remember vaguely thinking that the temperature probably dropped about 5 percent between the locker room and the field, so the pressure in the footballs might plausibly have dropped about 5 percent too. Then again, maybe the volume of the footballs changed slightly. Hmmm. Then I got sick and didn't care anymore—about Deflategate or anything else. Joe Nocera writes about this today:
John Leonard is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology....When the Deflategate story broke after last year’s A.F.C. championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts [in January], he found himself fixated on it....“Of course, I thought of the Ideal Gas Law right away,” Leonard says, “but there was no data to test it.”
....In May, the data arrived....Numbers in hand, Leonard went to work. He bought the same gauges the N.F.L. used to measure p.s.i. levels. He bought N.F.L.-quality footballs. He replicated the temperatures of the locker room, and the colder field. And so on....The drop in the Patriots’ footballs’ p.s.i was consistent with the Ideal Gas Law.
By early November, he had a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 slides....A viewer who watched the lengthy lecture edited it down to a crisp 15 minutes....It is utterly convincing.
This is what's always puzzled me. You don't need to be an MIT professor of Measurement and Instrumentation to get a good sense of what happened, and you don't need to spend a year pondering the minutiae of the Ideal Gas Law and writing 140 slides about it. Get a bag of footballs, inflate them to 12.5 psi, and take them outside on a 50-degree day. Wait an hour and measure them again. Maybe do this a few times under different conditions (wet vs. dry, different gauges, etc.). It would take a day or two at most.2 The league office could have instructed the referees to do this quick test just to see if 11.3 psi footballs were plausibly legal, and that might have been the end of it. Why didn't that happen? Why didn't lots of people try this? Even if you only have one football to your name, it wouldn't be hard to at least get a rough idea. Inflate it, put it in your refrigerator for an hour, and then remeasure it.
Since I wasn't paying attention, it's quite possible that lots of people did this. Did they? Did the league? What happened here?
2Because I'm an optimistic guy, I'm just going to assume that this would be done in at least a minimally rigorous way. Nothing that would be necessary for publication in Nature. Just good enough to satisfy Mr. Lantz, my high school physics teacher.
"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any voters, ok? It's, like, incredible." —Donald Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, insulting the intelligence of his own supporters.
On Friday, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced sweeping changes to its structural and voting process aimed at promoting diversity within the Academy and its governing entities—changes the Academy promises will double the number of women and "diverse members" by 2020.
"The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."
The announcement comes amid ongoing outrage sparked by this year's Oscar nominations, which failed to include a single person of color in its Best Film, Best Director, or its four major acting categories. The response quickly resulted in the social media campaign #OscarsSoWhite to call attention to the industry's diversity issues.
Shortly after the nominations were unveiled, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, and Spike Lee announced they were not going to attend this year's awards ceremony.
"The Academy reflects the industry, reflects Hollywood, and the industry reflects America, reflects a series of challenges that we're having in our country at the moment," Smith said. "There's a regressive slide towards separatism, toward racial and religious disharmony, and that's not the Hollywood I want to leave behind, that's not the industry, that's not the America I want to leave behind."
Meet Buddy, a lovely cat recently adopted by a friend of mine. Buddy is quite the sociable furball. He was carefully put into an acclimation room after the 6-hour (!) ride home, but only spent about five minutes there. Then he hopped out and started exploring. He explored the fish tank. He explored the gigantic cat perch. He slid across the wood floors. He jumped into everyone's laps and started purring. And as you can see, he found a lovely, color-coordinated snoozing spot. It seems to be a match made in heaven.
Everybody is writing today about National Review's big "Against Trump" issue. I did that last night, so today I want to review their effort. I give it a D+.
This isn't my usual liberal carping at NR. Normally I carp because I disagree with them, but this time we are joined in a mutual bond of disgust. Virtually every single thing that everyone said in their anti-Trump symposium was true. I applaud what they did.
But why was it so damn lazy? Every editor in the world knows that the easiest way to fill pages is to corral a bunch of writers from the ol' office Rolodex and ask them each to write 300 words on some topic. Every editor also knows that unless there's some serious adult supervision, these "symposiums" are usually flaccid and unpersuasive. Lots of contributors will repeat what others have said. They mostly just bang something out instead of working on tight pieces that make crisp points. Some of them just toss out a few bromides and email it off.
That's what happened this time too, and it's yet another example of what I was complaining about yesterday: no one seems willing to really attack Trump. Obviously I don't expect NR to produce the written equivalent of a Willie Horton ad, but despite all my past (and future) kvetching about them, I have no doubt that NR's stable of writers can produce very persuasive, very well-written agit-prop1 when they put their minds to it. I've seen it before, and it's not always easy to respond to.
What NR should have done is simple: Figure out half a dozen of Trump's weakest points—points that even Trump supporters might find troubling—and assign a writer to dive into each one. Give each one the time to really do some research and produce a tight, fact-checked piece that tears Trump a new asshole. Put them all together and you'd have the definitive anti-Trump manifesto. Something like this would have an impact beyond the mere fact of NR doing it.
I don't know why this didn't happen. Lack of time? Lack of staff enthusiasm? It's a mystery.
1I don't mean this in a derogatory way. (Not this time, anyway.) This is what political magazines do. It can be done well or poorly, subtly or noisily, but our mission in life is to persuade people and provoke change.
Here's what's happened to abortion restrictions since the Republican landslide of 2010. After decades of passing a couple dozen laws each session, the number of new restrictions has skyrocketed. In the aftermath of the Democratic midterm debacle, states have averaged over a hundred per session. The moral of the story is: Midterms matter. States matter. If this doesn't stop, the year 1950 is coming soon to a state near you.
Just for the record, I haven't changed my mind: Donald Trump will not win the Republican nomination for president. At some point fairly soon, the other candidates are going to take off the gloves and really go after him. When that happens, Trump will have to fight back in a fairly ordinary way. Insults on Twitter will no longer be enough. Eventually the attacks will stick, Trump will do something dumb, and his support will drop.
That's it. That's all I've got. I don't know who's going to hit him hard. I don't know which attack will stick. I don't know what kind of mistake Trump will make. I don't know what will finally bring Republican voters to their senses. But something will.
Unless, of course, the Republican candidates continue to inexplicably shuffle around morosely and simply accept their fate as pathetic losers. It's hard to believe that's what's happened so far, and hard to believe it will continue. But I guess it's possible. Maybe what the GOP really needs is an institutional-size Prozac. Or Viagra. Or something.
Except that's not how the Supreme Court works. Justices don't get to pick which issues or cases come their way. Only after a case is appealed to the Supreme Court can the justices decide to hear the case. There is no way for Sanders' Supreme Court picks to decide that overturning Citizens United, the 2010 campaign finance decision that fueled the rise of super-PACs, will be one of their first acts on the bench, even if they really, really want it to be.
Update: Sanders campaign spokeswoman Symone Sanders sent the following note explaining the tweet: "That tweet was worded oddly. The senator often speaks about appointing justices that believe in overturning citizens united and who would do so if the opportunity arose. That is what this was referring to."