Five Things: June 4, 2020

It’s only June 4, y’all. Here’s today’s five:

James Mattis stabs Trump in the eye: And courageously says what everyone already knows, which is that Trump is awful and divisive and wants to use the military on American civilians so he can feel big and tough.  And yes, I’m giving Mattis a bit of stick here — his insight here is not, shall we say, a new or surprising one — but it does matter that Trump’s former Secretary of Defense is saying it and that in doing so, he’s giving cover for other military folks to come forward and say the same thing (usually when retired). And it has at least put up a roadblock for Trump siccing the military on civilians without pushback, so that’s something. And of course Trump’s petulant response on Twitter takes him look even smaller, if possible. On that score: Mission accomplished, General Mattis.

New York Times writers revolt over Tom Cotton’s op-ed: You know, the one where he, like the good soldier he is, supported Trump’s position on unleashing the military on civilians to make President Trump feel big and strong. I would say that Cotton, a graduate of Harvard Law and a former US Army captain with a Bronze Star, should know better, but if the (heh) cogent example of Ted Cruz shows us anything, being educated and knowledgable takes a back seat when lickspittlery, and early positioning for a presidential run, is involved. At the very least Mattis’ comments stuffed Cotton’s op-ed into the trash where it belongs.

I’m not personally as outraged as others are about the Times publishing the Cotton piece because I think one of the purposes of the op-ed pages are to let people make fools of themselves in public so you can’t say later on that you didn’t know who they showed themselves to be. However, I also acknowledge I am a straight white dude who isn’t out protesting — or reporting on the protests — in an era where the police have declared open season on both protestors and journalists. I’m perfectly happy to cede that I’m probably not the one to be listening to on this particular matter. There’s the theory of how op-ed pages work, and there’s a practical matter of what effect an op-ed will have in the real world. The NYT journalists are rather reasonably concerned about the latter.

It’s hot and humid and our air conditioning is on the fritz: Because of course it is, why wouldn’t it be. The diagnostic guy was here and apparently our outside unit is leaking coolant and they won’t be able to fix it until a week from today, and between now and then we have a bunch of days in the mid/high 80s and low 90s, with humidity to go along with it. This is not great, and also a reminder that the vast majority of humanity had to live without air conditioning and I honestly don’t know how they managed. I wouldn’t do it. Heat sucks. Heat with humidity sucks the will to live.

2020 Time Travel: The first one, which came out a little over a month ago, has comedian Julie Nolke visiting her January self from April. The second one (which came out earlier today) has her April self visited by her June self. Both are worth your time, but if you have to pick just one to watch, watch the second. You’ll have enough context to go on.

When you’ve lost The Rock, you’ve lost America. Yeah, even Dwayne Johnson is all “WTF, dude” anymore. Did I mention it’s just June 4? 26 more days of June, folks. We’re gonna feel them all, looks like.

51 Comments on “Five Things: June 4, 2020”

  1. The NYT reporters may have a point – I don’t subscribe anymore as their op-ed pages are a raging dumpster fire, and they are too “both sides” in general. Cotton and Rafael are both grasping for the brass ring of the fascist revival tour in 2024 – same policies as Trump, just not screaming the quiet parts out loud.

    I’m hoping that the troops don’t get stuck in the middle of it – Trump is waddling off to Bedminster this weekend, apparently, so at least he won’t be around to push it. Though Barr is worse.

  2. “It’s only June 4, y’all.” Stop lying. STOP LYING. It is Monday, November 2. In 24 hours this will all be over. *rocks back and forth* 24 hours, 24 hours.

  3. The thing about the Cotton op-ed was not so much that the Times printed it as that they used their Green Lantern editorial powers to reshape Cotton into a sensible human being instead of the inchoate raging wingnut he is and he shows off in his Twitter feed. It normalizes him in the same way the newsies have been editing Trump’s weird word salad to make him seem less insane, and that’s a problem.

    And, speaking purely as a GI, it’s worth remembering that Cotton never got past company-grade officer, so he knows about as much about “war”, the civil-military relationship, and the value of using soldiers in supporting civil government, as a cow knows about the Council of Trent.

  4. > Heat with humidity sucks

    You can buy a dehumidifier. Yes, it will blow hot air but it’s dry hot air, and that can make a huge difference in comfort, at least in one room in the house. And when winter comes, having dry cold air in the house is a lot more comfortable than humid cold air that will strip the warmth from your skin.

  5. Air conditioning: I lived a couple of years in an older apartment building in eastern Pennsylvania that lacked central air. Management would let you, for a fee, put in a window unit, but I never did. The building was originally for upper-middle-class tenants (complete with a servant’s staircase). It was solid masonry, designed so every unit was a corner unit with the potential for cross-ventilation, and had trees overhanging the building. Add in some fans, and I thought it was fine. (If my wife–then fiancee–were reading this, she should would jump in to disagree.)

    So the answer to how people lived was that if they had the economic means, they used architecture as much advantage as possible. And of course once you reach the economic stratum where “summer” is a verb, you go to the mountains for the worst of it. The problem nowadays is that even expensive buildings are constructed with air conditioning assumed. So when it goes out, it really and truly sucks.

    How much does it suck? You end up living live the unwashed masses did, back in the day.

  6. Regarding the lack of AC.

    At night open as many doors and windows as possible to let the cool night air in.
    In the early morning, as soon as someone/anyone is up and about or it starts to warm up outside close all of the doors and windows. NO EXCEPTIONS.
    Then close all of the blinds and/or curtains on any windows or doors that sun will shine through during the day (if you are home you can adjust the blinds open/closed as necessary but don’t miss any or the heat from the sun will warm the house up right quick.

    If your house’s insulation is good this should keep the heat down during the day.

    It is what we do and have done here on Cape Cod for over 30 years. Open it up at night. I close the house up when I head to work in the early AM. Usually the house will only raise up about 5 degrees over the course of the day even when it hits the 80s-90s. This keeps the AC off except on the hottest of days (which usually followed a night that didn’t get too cool.)


    You could do the reverse, create a sauna, and lose some weight the easy way by sweating! A lot!!

  7. @jessnevins: I am right there with you. I have the sinking feeling, though, that November 3rd may mark the beginning of a whole new set of existential horrors afflicting the US political system. (Trump refusing to concede if – IF – he loses, etc.)

  8. Turns out, once time travel will have been invented, time travelers will find that by going back in time and fiddling with the timeline itself, they can move bad historical events backward in time so that it doesnt hit their “normal” or “current” time period. But they can only push it so far before their “current” timeline becomes unrecognizable to them.

    Which is to say, everything bad is happening in 2020 because time travel will be invented in 2040. And all the shit thats supposed to happen from 2040 to 2100 gets dumped into the 2020.

    It sucks. Its not your fault. But since we’ve made you our dumping grounds, i thought you should know.

  9. Cotton several years ago said that if anyone was caught violating sanctions on trading with Iran, their entire family should be punished too, without worrying about a trial. That’s both unconstitutional and illegal but that didn’t stop him.
    Which is to say it’s pretty obvious what scum he is (there’s also his twitter feed) so putting him in the NYT as if he was legitimate (next up, Victor Orban pens a column on how he’s saving Europe from George Soros!) is not a good thing.

  10. From the perspective of someone who spent most of his Army tour in New Jersey and Virginia, and is currently spending daily gardening time out in Arizona’s summer temps, the difference between heat+humidity and “a dry heat” is the difference between a slow-cooker stew and making jerky.

  11. Mr. Mattis is late to the game and regurgitates Democrat talking points.

    He’ll be lucky if Coach Obama lets him ride the bench during this affray.

  12. I hear hotels are cheap now. And they have A/C. I suspect that you will be safe in one for a week with masks and social distancing and room service/take out.

  13. Thank you for cluing me into the Rock’s message. I been nose deep in writing. Turned off the news months ago. Be well sir. Love your work.

  14. > blinds and/or curtains on any windows or doors that sun will shine through

    We have rolls of aluminized bubble wrap insulation cut to size to fit inside the heat-gaining Southern windows. It’s amazing how much that helps keep the house livable. Although neighbors do say it looks a bit like a meth lab. You can buy the stuff in rolls at Home Depot et al.

    Make sure to get the kind with aluminum film on both sides. Some has one side aluminum and one side white plastic that degrades into home dandruff fairly quickly.

  15. Oh, and now there’s aluminized foamcore — which I think would be even better than the bubblewrap. 4 foot by 50 foot roll, plenty for most of us with little houses.

    Oh, and we replaced our very old tar and gravel roof with white plastic a few years ago, and that dropped the attic temperature by 40 degrees F on hot days. Look up “high emissivity” roofing ratings. It doesn’t have to be white these days, there are multiple colors available all that are high emissivity. Which means they throw infrared back at the sky rather than converting it to heat that creeps down into the attic and thence turns your bedroom ceilings into broilers at night. It makes quite a difference.

  16. About 5 years ago my HVAC went out during the hottest week of the year here in GA (think 95+ temps. I think one day we even broke 100). The days were manageable but the nights were miserable. I drew on my childhood in Singapore to help:

    Take the top sheet of of your bed and run it through the spin cycle in your washer. That will get it nicely damp but not so wet it’s uncomfortable. Sleep under that with a fan going. That will cool you down enough to get to sleep and then as the sheet dries, your body temps will have dropped enough to keep you asleep. I did this every night for 10 days until they could get a new unit into my (just purchased) house.

  17. My commiserations on the humidity front; I loathe it and know no way of functioning in it.

    As for the New York Times: I’ve cancelled my subscription and explained why. I then turned down the offer of a half-price subscription for the next year since all that does is convey the impression that I really don’t mind if they deliberately throw oil on a fire that is raging provided they give me some money. The fact that they are dim enough to imagine that making such an offer will somehow put things right merely reinforces my awareness of the moral vacuum which led to them running the piece in the first place…

  18. Dude! sorry to hear about your air conditioner. A lot of regular maintenance is on the less essential side of things, so it hasn’t been getting done, but really, it’s not. Try to stay as cool as you can.

  19. Yeah, but, as far as Mattis goes, too little, way too late. He worked for the guy for TWO YEARS, then spent another year and a half with his mouth shut, so now…he’s even with The Rock? Big deal.

  20. I guess the question would be: If every criticism of Trump (by people who might actually know enough to cogently criticize him) is Democratic talking points or “fake news”, then what would legitimate criticism be? Is there any?

    As a secondary question, what has he actually done that even reaches the level of “competent”, much less good? If you judge him on what he has said and who he’s chosen (the two aspects he has control over), what has he done that would reach even the level of competence of the Carter or W administrations? Other than Mattis and Gorsuch as personnel choices, I don’t know many good choices he’s made (and even when he makes a good personnel choice, they invariably can’t stay for long. (Cavanaugh would have been an OK choice if he hadn’t, like, lied during his confirmation hearings, which seems…bad for a Supreme Court justice).

    Re: Mattis: “Your job is to serve the country, not the people you happen to like.”(from Clear and Present Danger)

  21. I think it’s important that it was the black NY Times staff that spoke up especially; not only their jobs, but their LIVES are on the line. And the privileged higher ups at the paper certainly don’t realize that.

    And, yeah….”legitimate criticism.” I always ask right wingers what would THEY criticize Bush/Trump for….and they either have nothing to say…or they mention something that they actually already did.

  22. I agree with David A.W. above, it’s the process I’ve gone through for years in the old houses I’ve lived in. If the temperature gets too hot I run the fans overnight.
    Of the not so merry month of June 2020, I’m reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. History reminds us that there has never been a simpler time, and, sadly, that a lot of default attitudes in this country haven’t changed in over 100 years. Generation by generation, though, the liberal project seems to make a little ground. It did with me.

  23. About living without a/c, some tips from someone who has lived both in North American buildings, and buildings in the rest of the world:
    1. Live in an actual building (made of stone/concrete), instead of something with paper in place of walls (you probably refer to the paper as drywall). The stone will retain the temperature, balancing it between day and night. We’ve been building like this for millennia, I just don’t understand why you would switch to paper instead. Didn’t you learn anything from the story of the three little pigs?)
    2. Construct your building so that the heat has somewhere to go (e.g. an attic)
    3. As someone else here said: manage the heat, open things during the day and close them at night.

    Personally, I hate a/c and the first thing I always try to do wherever we go is turn it off. It’s completely counter to the way nature intended things to be and it’s a major source of infection as well. When we lived in Toronto in a building where you couldn’t turn the stupid thing off, you basically had to wear a sweater in summer and a t-shirt in winter.

    Sorry you probably have to live in a house where you cannot do all that!

  24. Sometimes I feel as if we are living (nearly …) identical lives. I used to live in Dayton. My wife’s family is all over Bradford. She was born and raised in Dayton. Our daughters are extremely close in age, my daughter nearly (there’s that word again …) went to Miami (she chose closer to home at Colorado State University … tell me that Athena isn’t studying to be an engineer?) and I just had to have work done on our HVAC. Weird! HVAC out this time of year in South-central Ohio is no laughing meeter. Get lots of fans.

    On another topic … I just watched this video at CNN ( and I am lost. I want to do something, as I see what Ms. Sykes is saying, but it seems as anything I might do (middle-aged, affluent white guy) will be either seen as entirely patronizing or make whatever I am trying to help worse. I have a close friend of color who has had great success in his life who bought a nice house on five acres several years ago, called his oldest back to the compound, along with his other child, got his aged mother and father in there with them, closed the gate to their property, locked it, and is trying to keep COVID-19 out of his body with scotch. It is hard to not follow his example, but then, he is from a family of sharecroppers from central Mississippi, so he rather gets to make his own decisions, no? He really has nothing to prove. But as Ms. Sykes says, we do. I’m conflicted and anxious and really know what the right thing to do is (get out and vote, when you see something, do something … but with a mask on), but what to do. I’m barely coherent I’m so frustrated and angry about what I see happening in our country.

    What to do!?

  25. I have been known to take an ice pack to bed, wrapped in a towel, just like a hot water bottle. Cooling the feet helps cool all of you.

  26. They say the leader of Singapore was at an international gathering. Asked what was a great invention he said “air conditioning.” Much laughter. But he was right. In America that invention opened up the south, including (but not limited to, says my lawyer) Florida and Arizona. Even today the hotel rates in Phoenix go down, not up, in summer.

    In Florida, where the buses are air conditioned, a local tells me that if the air con fails, the windows are no good: People just abandon the bus.

  27. Officers can go to jail for criticizing the President. It’s ok to criticize his policies, although often unwise (especially the more senior one gets, or the more DC one’s duty station). But had Gen Mattis still been on active duty, he would have been subject to court martial for violating Article 88 of the UCMJ (codified at 10 U.S.C. § 888):

    “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    And officers are subject to recall for a number of years after retirement, so just retiring may not be good enough…

  28. I have had the same problem with my ac unit in the past. I assume you have icing on the insulted copper line between your cooling coils inside your furnace and the compressor unit outside. Low coolant level could be the problem…. but it could be something much simpler.

    Here are a few steps you can try:

    1) Make sure you have a new, clean filter installed. Reduced air flow due to a dirty filter is a big problem for ac units, especially when you first turn them on in the spring.

    2) With your a.c. off, switch the fan from auto to the on position. Let it run this way for at least six hours. This will melt any ice buildup on the cooling coils inside the a.c. and warm the system to ambient temperature. You might then notice an increase in air flow coming from your vents. That would be a good sign, and an indicator that your coolant level is ok.

    3) Turn the fan back to the auto position. Then switch the a.c. back on and set it to about 72 degrees. Make sure your compressor unit is on and the fan out there is running.

    4) Check the system every 30 minutes or so. Look for strong and cool air flow from your vents. Inspect the insulated copper line carefully for any additional icing, especially where it attaches to your compressor unit outside.

    Ok then. After several hours, If there is no icing and you have a strong cool flow of air coming from from your vents, and the temperature inside your house is dropping (this might be slower than you would think because your walls, floors, etc need cool too), then you are good to go. Call your hvac company and cancel the appointment.

    If there is icing then your coolant level IS low and the unit will need to be recharged by a technician. Go rent a suite at a hotel which allows pets.

    Best of luck!

  29. I want to believe that Mattis and his speech will make a difference, but I just can’t. Trump has fanatical followers who only call him a deep state traitor, or whatever bullshit they have at hand. This military pushback should work in democracy’s favor, but it won’t. The assholes in the Trump base have nothing left to lose.

  30. The goal has to be to peel it back so that only his hardcore base is left. Do that and assuming a fair election (which may be a stretch, granted) and the election is won.

  31. If you can get some, ceiling fans are a great way of taking the edge of heat and humidity. It’s 31.5 C (89F) with 76% Rel.Humidity at my desk here in Hong Kong, and with the fan going overhead, there’s just enough movement of air that it’s comfortable. Warm, but comfortable.

  32. Re: the Nolke videos – I think it’s time to consider re-splitting the Dramatic Presentation Hugo into FOUR awards to fully recognize the proliferation of sf/fantasy media at a variety of different lengths. I’d propose one for four hours or longer (TV seasons and the like), one for 1-4 hours (movies, basically), one for roughly 20-60 minutes (individual TV episodes, with maybe some slack in the range to allow for extra-long series finales and the like), and one for 20 minutes or less (short films either animated or live-action, music videos or even songs without videos, short TV episodes if they qualify, and amateur videos of all kinds). These January-meets-April and April-meets-June videos would be on my ballot in the “short-short” films category.

  33. I read the news today, oh boy… if anyone needs me, I’ll be down in my bunker. You know, inspecting things…

  34. I grew up on a farm just a few miles from you 60 some years ago. No AC. Even only one small fan that would overheat and lock up. Not only the heat and humidity, but the smell of livestock manure. That was so bad that the white paint on the barn would temporarily discolor to a gray. But, it was what it was, we survived and didn’t complain much about it. But modern Indoor climate control is oh so nice!

    Be thankful that you don’t have an active farm barnyard within 100 feet of your open window!

  35. I looked at the link to the thing from The Rock, and I have to say I don’t think he’s calling things by their right names. “All lives matter?” All lives should matter, but when it comes to black ones we have ample evidence that they don’t, when it comes time for our society to decide on what matters and what doesn’t. Because if black lives really mattered, there wouldn’t have been Yet Another murder of a black man by cops on camera, followed by a foot-dragging half-assed response from the local prosecutor.

    I for one am grateful that Keith Ellison lost his shot at DNC Chairman and is now consequently in a position to do some good in the world.

  36. I feel for you with the AC out. My chemo-affected partner is still heating the house to upper 70s/lower 80s, which seriously makes me unable to think or care about anything. I don’t see how you can write. Maybe one of your more hordery neighbors has an old window model in the barn or basement they can loan you.

  37. I don’t think there’s much reason to think Mattis will change the minds of people who like Trump, but it might help people who don’t like either Trump (and his party) or the Democrats to decide who’s worse for America.

    Being immune to evidence is problematic – in that sense, Trumpworld is like a cult because the only source of information that is trusted is the leader and his designated information sources. There is no independent source of valid information, and without that, you can’t assess the truth value of its claims. (The short attention span theater of arguments is also helpful in that logic can be ignored, too – you can choose to ignore cause and effect if the leader doesn’t like it.) That only works, though, until the world imposes evidence in a way that can’t be ignored – you can ignore the fact you’re falling only until you hit the ground. Of course, that also assumes that that isn’t intentional – that the hitting the ground is not the point (which also like a cult, as well).

  38. The writing, and delivery, on the “Julie From…” videos is fantastic.

  39. As a native of the Midwest, I often hear people express sympathy and horror over what the winters are like. They’re not wrong, but I have to point out to them that the summers are also awful. And at least you don’t get mosquitoes in the winter.

    As to the NYT op-ed, the most effective way to mock and expose fascism really isn’t “give the fascist access to our large and world-renowned platform so he can monologue”. A much better way is to let him go find somewhere else to flap his lips and then report on what’s he’s said, which also allows for fact-checking and presenting the opinions of others who can point out that what this dude just said is stupid and fascist.

    Second (and you had no reason to know this on June 4, which was a millennia ago in 2020 years) this seems to have been much more than the NYT naively thinking that they were merely using sunlight as a disinfectant. The editor in charge of the op-ed wanted to run it with photos of troops at the 1962 segregationist riots at Ole Miss, and appears only to have gotten pushback from the world’s bravest intern. And one of the senior op-ed editors who started off with blathering about the marketplace of ideas is now trying to convince everyone that actually, he never read it before it ran.

    Why did the NYT run it? I’m cynical enough that I don’t think this was even about page clicks so much as about currying favor. The wealthy chattering classes run on networking and back-scratching.

  40. I’ve believed my society was going to collapse most of my life. I hoped I was being dramatic.

    And here we are: members of our government, sworn defenders of our nation’s source code, trusted, earnest guardians of our rights and well-being, beneficiaries of the bounty of our institutions, advocating atrocity and normalizing the oppression of the less advantaged.

    America is high school book dumping, swirly-administering, and shoving us into lockers…forever.
    ( With abject apologies to George Orwell.)

    If slavery is our nation’s original sin, we are still committing it in all but name.

    I can’t even.

  41. Jay Rosen, the dean of the NYU Journalism School, had this to say about the wisdom of publishing the Cotton editorial:

    “The emerging divide in journalism is not between “let all relevant arguments be heard” and “don’t publish opinions we find repulsive.” It’s between those who ask, “is this something we should be amplifying?” and those who don’t see the importance of putting the question that way.”

    Cotton called for the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. I question whether that deserves amplification.

    Rosen’s blog, PressThink, is worth reading.

  42. Sorry about your AC problem. This comment is about the overheated political situation we are experiencing. No AC for that either. Trump is busy, as always, insulting via Tweeter at people he does not like because they have dared criticize him. Now he is doing that to retired officers widely respected within the military. And more retired officers keep coming to criticize him anyways. (Active duty officers cannot do that, because that would be committing insubordination.) I wonder if this government, its president in particular, is now eagerly pawing a third rail with a train coming down the tunnel. There are also signs of discontent among influential Republicans. Example: the Senator for Alaska, a state as red as they come. I think we are living in unprecedented times. My big question is: what now?

  43. Sorry about your AC problem. This comment is about the overheated political situation we are experiencing. No AC for that either. Trump is busy, as always, insulting via Tweeter at people he does not like because they have dared criticize him. Now he is doing that to retired officers widely respected within the military. And more retired officers keep coming to criticize him anyways. (Active duty officers cannot do that, because that would be committing insubordination.) I wonder if this government, its president in particular, is now eagerly pawing a third rail with a train coming down the tunnel. There are also signs of discontent among influential Republicans. Example: the Senator for Alaska, a state as red as they come. I think we are living in unprecedented times. My big question is: what now?

  44. @twentyminutesintothefuture : Your suspicion that all the bad stuff clumps up here because of time travelers from 2040 and beyond trying to move their messes appears to be a massive spoiler for the plot of “Alice Payne Arrives” by Kate Heartfield, which I just checked out online last week. Makes good sense, but the late Stephen Hawking disproved backward time travel with his 2009 birthday party invitations.

    This year appears to be a counterexample to Ray Cummings’ quote in “The Time Professor”, 1921: “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” (And no, it’s not Woody Allen or Albert Einstein. Not in this time continuum, anyway.)

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