• Pay No Attention to the Tweeter Behind the Curtain

    It’s a weekend, and that means Donald Trump is bored. Here are this morning’s top stories in the Washington Post:

    I wish the Post and other newspapers would take the advice of these “top U.S. officials.” I don’t mind that they report on Trump’s tweets. He is the president, after all. But after 2+ years of these ragetweets, it’s obvious they’re just a way for Trump to blow off steam and get attention. They mean next to nothing in terms of actual policy, so why keep up the pretense that they’re important? Take them off the front page and put them on the digital equivalent of A12, where they belong.

    UPDATE: Screenshot updated to show afternoon home page with not one, not two, but three articles about Trump’s tweets.

  • A Tale of Three Tweets

    Noted without comment. Rob Goldman is the vice president of advertising at Facebook.

  • At Yosemite, It’s All About the Light

    As anyone who’s been there can tell you, Yosemite is all about the light. Since I took a few hundred pictures of Half Dome, I thought it might be fun to use a series of them to illustrate this. First up, here is Half Dome in basic gray, its morning and early afternoon color:

    Here it is in late afternoon, when the sun is still high enough to be bright and white, but low enough to be shining directly onto the rock face:

    Here it is just before sunset, bathed in a warm golden glow:

    And if you’re lucky, here it is right at sunset, a deep ruddy red:

    Here’s an interesting thing: Half Dome at sunset looks redder in a photo than in real life. It’s not hugely different, but it’s noticeable—and it’s not just my camera, either. I noticed this while I was shooting from Tunnel View, so I started looking around at other people’s cameras. They were all the same. This is probably because the white balance of the camera is set to sunlight, so it interprets the sunset as a little redder than it really is. This could be adjusted, but I’m not sure precisely what setting would be best.

    Three of these pictures are from the exact same spot because I happened to pass by Tunnel View several times during our visit. However, I wasn’t there in late afternoon, so that picture is from the Valley floor, somewhere along the Merced River.

    We had terrific light during this trip. The sky was clear, temps were in the 40s, the morning sun was bright and sharp, and the evening sun was a gorgeous red. From a photographer’s point of view, we got really lucky. Naturally you’ll see the results, scattered amongst the lunchtime photos for the next few months.

  • Here’s What Really Matters

    I spent the day on the road yesterday, so I’m a little behind on things. I hope I get this right.

    • The special prosecutor indicted 13 Russian nationals for illegally interfering in US elections. Donald Trump’s response was to say that what really matters is that he wasn’t indicted.
    • Seventeen schoolchildren were massacred in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott’s response was to say that what really matters is that the FBI made a mistake, and that means Trump nemesis Christopher Wray should be fired as its director.
    • Back on the Russians, the White House apparently decided Trump’s personal response wasn’t enough. What really matters, said the deputy press secretary, is that Democrats are even worse than Russians. Oh, and the media too.

    Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.

  • Pot Biz Demands More Pot Busts

    Deleigh Hermes/zReportage.com via ZUMA

    This cracks me up:

    Six weeks after the state began licensing marijuana farming and sales, officials have received a flood of complaints about illegal pot operations and demands for a start to tough enforcement….”We really need enforcement in California given that the local licensees are really having to fight against the black market,” Stephanie Hopper, a representative of the firm Canndescent, which grows and sells marijuana in California, told the panel.

    Hopper said illicit businesses are driving down the price of marijuana. Enforcement is needed “to make sure that we actually stand up this industry and that the regulated people actually have an opportunity to thrive.”

    It’s no longer the drug warriors demanding strict enforcement of the law, it’s pot sellers. Times sure change, don’t they?

    (And yes, I’m easily amused.)

  • Friday Cat Blogging – 16 February 2018

    This is Hopper up on the patio cover, with our Australian Willow in the background. The willow just got its winter pruning, so it will be a while before I can take another picture like this. It’s also apparently suffering from some kind of tree disease, like every other tree in Southern California. At least, that’s how it seems these days. But whatever the disease is, it’s something very slow moving, so our willow will probably be with us for quite a while longer.

  • Here Are Your School Shooting Options

    Carolyn Cole/TNS via ZUMA

    After Wednesday’s school massacre in Florida, I see that we’re being presented with our usual options:

    • We can ban certain kinds of weapons that have no real use except as mass-killing machines.
    • Or we can turn our schools into armed camps.

    Unfortunately, one of these is fascism.

  • EPA Provides Example of Why Scott Pruitt Has to Fly First-Class

    Doesn't that look nice? Don't you wish you could afford to fly first-class? Now you can! Just become America's most hated EPA administrator and this could be yours.United Airlines

    As long as I’ve gotten myself on the Scott Pruitt bandwagon, I guess I might as well keep at it. Here’s the latest from Henry Barnet, director of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement:

    Barnet said Pruitt’s detail has been alarmed at some of the confrontations they have had to defuse while traveling in public.

    As an example, Barnet recounted an incident from October at the airport in Atlanta. An individual approached Pruitt with his cell phone recording, yelling at him “‘Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment,’ those sort of terms,” Barnet said.

    ….Pruitt’s security detail now performs a new threat assessment every 90 days “because the threats are so prevalent” to make sure procedures and tactics are up to date, Barnet said. EPA’s independent Office of Inspector General, which investigates threats against Pruitt, told POLITICO on Thursday that none of the threats it has received have been related to his air travel.

    October. In the airport. That’s after Pruitt started traveling first-class, and it’s not in the plane anyway so it would have happened regardless. This is not the greatest example in the world of why Pruitt has to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to fly up front with all the rich people.

    You want my guess? No? Too bad. I figure this is a cozy little conspiracy between Pruitt and his agent in charge. Pruitt wants to fly first-class. His security agent likes the idea of flying first-class too. So the agent claims Pruitt is in mortal danger from the throngs of people who recognize the EPA administrator in airports, and Pruitt winks and says he’s just following the advice of his security team. It’s a win-win.

  • Scott Pruitt Invents Yet Another Story About His First-Class Travel

    Chris Kleponis/CNP via ZUMA

    I don’t really care all that much whether EPA admnistrator Scott Pruitt flies in a blimp or an F-18. But the endless lying surrounding his official travel really grates. Yesterday, Politico reported that Pruitt’s story about getting a waiver to travel first-class was no longer operative:

    EPA on Wednesday retracted its claim that Administrator Scott Pruitt has received a “blanket waiver” to fly first class whenever he travels, after POLITICO pointed officials to federal travel rules that appeared to bar such arrangements.

    ….GSA does allow first-class travel for security reasons, but only if agencies request a waiver for each trip. “As such, for every trip Administrator Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class,” Wilcox said, amending the agency’s earlier statement, which yielded criticism from Republican lawmakers and led Democrats to request an inspector general investigation.

    “Amending.” Uh huh. Originally the story was that Pruitt had received a blanket waiver. Then Politico pointed out this was illegal. So Pruitt just blandly changed his story to say that he had actually applied for a separate waiver for each trip.

    So that’s that. They just make up any old story, and if it doesn’t work, they invent another one. Are any of them true? Who knows?

    As for the story about Pruitt flying first-class for security reasons, well…

    Verbal confrontations with members of the public prompted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to switch to flying first or business class whenever possible, officials said Thursday.

    Henry Barnet, who directs EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, said in an interview that the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Pasquale Perrotta, recommended in May that he fly in either first or business class to provide “a buffer” between him and the public. His memo was prompted by an incident that month when a person approached Pruitt “with threatening language” that was “vulgar,” Barnet said.

    Nothing says “public servant” like spending thousands of dollars a year to provide a buffer against the public, amirite? In this case, there was no physical contact involved, just some vulgar language. Nor is it clear where this happened—on the plane? in the terminal? somewhere else?—or why flying first-class would prevent this anyway.

    EPA only copped to this one incident, but also said that verbal insults have been “much more prevalent” with Pruitt than his predecessors. Really? Was this before the switch to first-class? How have things been since then?

    Oh, and can you please release the waivers you say you’ve been submitting? And the report from the head of Pruitt’s security detail recommending first-class travel? And documentation about the incident in May? And all the rest of the alleged incidents?

    No? Why am I not surprised?

    UPDATE: In case you’re curious, the conservative Twitterati are totally OK with Pruitt’s first-class travel because we lefties are such dangerous psychopaths. Remember Steve Scalise? A Bernie bro! And Rand Paul? Never mind that the Paul incident was dispute over gardening etiquette, it just goes to show the danger that conservatives are in. So of course Pruitt has to fly first-class.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    Have you heard about Horsetail Fall? Every year, for a week or two in February, it lights up for a few minutes near sunset into a brilliant red that reminds longtime Yosemite-goers of the old firefall. And we happen to be here at just the right time! Are you ready? Here’s what it looks like:

    Well, that’s what it looks like during California’s fourth drought of the 21st century, anyway—which is totally not because of global warming so stop saying that. Still, at least there was plenty of sunlight, so we saw the color change even if there was no water. The previous day had been so cloudy no one saw anything.

    When we made plans for this vacation, I was naturally figuring on snow. So we got out the thermal underwear, the mittens, and the tire chains. But the snow never came. A few days ago the forecast for this week was so warm I started wondering if I should even bother packing long pants. In the event, the weather turned a little colder, but still in the 40s and 50s. That’s bad for the planet, but pleasant for us.