He lost.

He lost fair and square, and by the time you get around to mathing it up, he lost in particularly impressive fashion. The binary nature of American politics thankfully broke through to the kind of people who will waste their votes on Greens or Libertarians or other feats of electoral masturbation, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris brought home a solid win for the idea that the four-year anomaly should not be allowed to continue.

Not that it will help. Anyone surprised at the reluctance of the Republicans to accept defeat hasn’t been paying attention for thirty years. Clinton did not break 50%, so he wasn’t really President. Obama was a secret Muslim born in Kenya so he wasn’t really President. Now, the thrust will be that Joe Biden was the beneficiary of a stolen election by some strange cabal of Democrats, Venezuelans, hackers, and [FILE_NOT_FOUND] and therefore is not really President. It is foundational to the Republican mind that no Democrat can ever legitimately hold power, and thus any cooperation or compromise or normal order of business is unthinkable and to be denied at every turn.

And this is a problem, because the Republicans have an unnatural advantage: they remain viable as a party purely thanks to structural flaws. They have lost every popular vote for President but one in the last three decades, seven of the last eight, but have put two in the Oval Office with fewer votes than their opponents. The last new GOP winner who had the most votes was in 1988. It’s past time for the Electoral College to go, because it has made it possible for a minority of thinly-populated rural states to prop up a party that can’t get more votes than its opponent. And spare me the concern for the intent of the Founders, which was already cast out with the 12th Amendment and further refined with the 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 24th and 26th Amendments. It’s time to stop pretending that the Electoral College is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Another thing we have to get our heads around is Congress. If you want to stop things, a President is sufficient. If you actually want to accomplish something, you have to have Congress. At this point, it looks like Joe will take office without control of both houses of Congress – which was bad enough when a minority GOP was dedicated to scorched Earth opposition to Clinton, or to Obama. Only an actual Democratic majority in the Senate will make legislation possible, and only by doing away with the filibuster – and right now, the ongoing orgy of recrimination about how Biden stole the election is there mainly to whip up the GOP and try to ensure they can remain in control by winning both Georgia runoffs. And if they do, prepare for the same problem as ever: the Republicans will sabotage everything the Democrats do to try to bring pandemic and economic relief, then blame them for the failure and win big at the midterms thanks to a dullard populace and a compliant and supine media. (If there’s one lesson from the last four years, it is that the New York Times is only fit to train a puppy on and no longer deserves to be regarded as a valid source of news, let alone any kind of “paper of record.)

And frankly, it’s time for wartime leadership from a new generation. I have nothing against Nancy Pelosi, who has regained control of the chamber twice and made Obamacare happen. She has been a stalwart and deserves to go down in history alongside Rayburn and O’Neill. But she’s 80 years old. The Democrats need leadership that doesn’t remember life before color television. The generational shift is long overdue. No more Boomers. No more Clinton-era loyalists. Skate to where the puck is going, not where it was during Vietnam or Lewinsky. That goes for Congress, it goes for the administration, and quite frankly, it goes for the DNC at this point. And it’s more important than ever, because while this was an existential crisis for America, it may not be the last one. Because the Republican Party is beyond help. They’re in the krokodil stage of their opioid addiction. The much-vaunted “Never Trump” rump faction is so small and ineffective as to be negligible, and the endless furrowed brows of Murkowski and Collins and Romney are no longer pertinent because there are no votes behind them. The Democrats need to act decisively and without appeasement, and only consider the opinion of a Never Trumper who is willing to act on it. Sorrow and concern aren’t worth a fifth of a damn if you follow the party every time anyway.

The Republican Party has become Trump, and Trump has become the Republican Party, and the GOP that built itself on Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan has been reduced to a postmodern religious cult of hate, fraud and make-believe. Only an idiot seeks to meet bullshit halfway, and there is nothing to gain by trying to split the difference with Crazy World. Call it out, cut it off, and shun everyone and anyone who won’t, including the catamites of the Washington press corps. “Come let us reason together” only works with people capable of reason, and the burden of proof is all on the other side now. Start by making the most simple litmus test of all: if you can’t say who won, you don’t get to play. The end.

first impressions

OLED display, 2200 Mac battery, voice control, one-handable, five color options – it took seven years, but Apple finally made a phone that competes in the same cruiserweight class as the 2013 Moto X, the last American-assembled phone and the only Android phone that ever actually coaxed money out of my pocket. So what does seven years and well over double the starting price get you?

For starters, there seems to be an ongoing issue with buying a case that’s on the market before the phone. It burned me on the iPhone 6, and on the iPhone X, and now it’s happened again: poorly-placed charger cutout and too much on the edges. Probably safer, to be honest, but I’m going to have to splash out for something more streamlined, and it’ll probably end up being Apple’s own leather case again. But the bulk in hand from the case took away from the initial impressions of slimness I was hoping for, even knowing intellectually that it wasn’t going to be as big a step down as the original SE was from its successor.

Even without the case, holding it side-by-side with that Moto X just shows how Google is doomed. Because they had this phone that Apple has only just caught, seven years ago, and it still feels more comfortable in hand than the 12 mini – because they sacrificed a flat back and put in a stepped battery with a curved backplate that fit the hand perfectly and gave the impression of great thinness around the edges. All these years later, it is still the most ergonomically satisfying phone ever made, and Google couldn’t sell it – which means there’s no phone they can sell. (And the Pixel 5 seems to bear this out.)

FaceID is still a problem in mask-world, but to be honest, the number one thing I do with a mask on that requires FaceID is Apple Pay, which can be handled through the watch – mostly. Maybe a straight migration would have been better than a restore from backup, but the latter is the only way of preserving the Duo two-factor auth settings without having to set them all up from scratch, and that alone is worthwhile. I would definitely like to be on faster wifi next time I’m setting up a phone, though. Speaking of, my work SIM does not appear to support 5G. Which is not a problem given that 5G is the biggest non-political fraud perpetrated on the public in the 21st century. No faster than LTE unless you have millimeter-wave, and the coverage area of a mmW station is comparable to wifi and only available on Verizon – and when your super duper network depends on which end of the stadium you’re sitting in, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Two days in, the battery life hasn’t yet been a concern. It also hasn’t been easy to judge. Getting the phone on Friday afternoon, going through all the migration, and then an all-day drive on Sunday meant there hasn’t really been time to experiment with the battery usage in normal service. Early returns are that it’s not as good as the 12, definitely not as good as the 11, but better than the X or SE it replaces for me. And that’s a fair comparison. You know you’re giving away battery when you go to a one-handed phone, and with 20W fast charging (and 12W wireless charging with Apple’s MagSafe), it stands to reason you should be able to top up with a quickness.

The back is glossy and fingerprint-strewn (this is where the matte finish of the Pro line definitely feels premium) but the aluminum frame is a rich dark blue with the ceramic screen uncurled and almost completely flush. It’s gorgeous, a worthy successor to the Dieter Rams elegance of the 4 series. Coupled with the true blacks of OLED on the most pixel-dense display in Apple history (476 ppi!) and the edge-to-edge picture, it looks more like a slice of the future than any iPhone in years, a piece of concept art come to life.

And the camera is as advertised. Clips works fine with the front camera (although I wish they still had the Star Wars backdrops available) and Night Mode is truly remarkable – at first glance I would have sworn there were floodlights on the house I took a picture of, but there weren’t, it’s just that effective. And just in time for the holidays. Which is fitting, because I had reconciled myself to not buying the phone and sticking with the SE until I was gifted it as an early Christmas present by my lovely wife. So the SE was passed forward and gifted to a very worthy recipient, with 18 months of AppleCare still on it, and I am back down to one phone and one number again.

It feels like the last piece of the puzzle. My Apple needs are complete. No new laptop, no new iPad, everything can wait. I have the AirPods Pro and the Watch as wearables and this driving it all, and I am complete. The most personal computing is set for a minimum of the next three years, hopefully more. All I need now is to get back into the world – a world which finally has a sliver of hope that it might be possible to get back into.

the bells of st mary

Last year, I finally downloaded Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You,” the landmark 1963 Christmas album that cemented the Wall of Sound in music history. And I hit upon a track I’d never heard, by a random assembly of session singers that happened to include Darlene Love.

“The Bells of St Mary” was a pop song from 1917. It got used in a movie of the same name starring Bing Crosby in the 40s, which included a Christmas pageant scene, and so apparently became a Christmas song the same way Jingle Bells did. And then it mostly dropped out of consciousness.

I heard it. And it sounded…triumphant. And I played it throughout December, and then realized…this is what it would sound like if we win in November, if we rejected Trump, if we broke through and ended the nightmare. And I hit pause immediately and didn’t play it again for fear of a jinx.

I didn’t realize 2020 would be a lifetime itself. But the same friend who came over in anticipation of a party in 2016 was the first to Tweet out “YEAH BUDDY” and that’s how I learned that we did it. And I immediately found the song on my phone, popped in the AirPods, and cranked it. Because I want to remember this feeling. I want the Pavlovian conditioning. I want this to be evoked every time those bells hit. I want to be reminded that sometimes, believing in hope ends in the good kind of tears.