Trump says Lake Norman is the “largest man-made lake in the world, by far”

Where does he get this stuff? To be fair, it is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina.

Well, at least he gets us thinking about things. I guess that makes him an educator in his own way. I really learn a lot from his errors!

As far as the U.S. goes, Lake Meade is, oh, about 25 times as large as Lake Norman in terms of how much water it can hold. Other lakes are #1 by other measurements. The less-heralded Lake Oahe, in South Dakota, is the largest in terms of total acreage (374,000 acres vs 32,000 for Lake Norman) and shoreline (2250 miles vs 520 for Lake Norman); while Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota currently holds the most water because Lake Meade is below capacity as a result of droughts.

Lake Oahe, by the way, has more shoreline than three of the Great Lakes!

In terms of the world, only Lake Oahe represents America on the top ten, and even that giant barely sneaks onto the bottom of the list. Six of the ten are in Canada and Russia, but the largest is Lake Kariba in Africa, which covers 40 times as much area as Lake Norman, and holds more than 100 times as much water.

High school football participation continues to decline

It’s important to note that the decline is merely a trickle, at some 5% per decade, but the trend shows no sign of reversing.

Smaller schools are finding it increasingly difficult to field a team. More than 20% of America’s high schools have no program for 11-player football.

While the nationwide trend is downward, the result is not consistent from state to state. Some states (Texas and Florida, for example) are actually increasing, while others (like New Jersey) are dropping far more rapidly than the national average.

Trump’s approval rating is on the skids

His current job rating matches his low among Republicans (78 percent approve) and Democrats (6 percent) alike. It’s 35 percent among independents.

I’m not sure why it dropped now. Last week he seemed to maintain his usual level, despite the Cohen and Manafort trials. Maybe it took some time for it all to sink in, or perhaps this ABC poll is just an outlier. At this moment he still stands at 42 in the Gallup methodology, which has been a consistent source of Presidential measurement for some seven decades.

To me, the most interesting data in the ABC survey is the answer to “If Trump directed Cohen to pay off the women, then …” An astounding 31% said he did not commit a crime in that case. That is, of course, a trick question because directing someone to commit a crime is a crime. In other words, 31% of Americans say “If Trump committed a crime, he did not commit a crime”!!  That gives you a pretty good idea of how strong is Trump’s grip on his supporters. As he once pointed out, he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and his core followers would not care. That may be an exaggeration, but one thing seems clear – his approval rating shouldn’t go below 31%!!

That means his low point will probably never go as low as that of the Bushes, Carter, Truman or Nixon. Truman holds the Gallup record low at 22%, but Bush the Younger holds the record for the worst margin (approve minus disapprove) at -46.

Trump’s current approval level is not disastrous in the sense that every President since JFK has dipped below 40 in the Gallup survey at one time or another. (Kennedy himself was the last President to be almost universally loved. His approval never dropped below 56%.)

But where Trump fails in comparison to previous Presidents is that he has never had a point of high popularity. Bush the Younger once dropped to 25, but he also ascended once to 90. Truman hit a nadir of 22, but his acme was 87. Trump, on the other hand has never passed 45 on the Gallup scale. Every other president has reached at least 66, even the much-loathed Nixon. Because Trump has never had any high points to balance off his low points, he has the lowest average approval rating in Gallup’s history, and by a very wide margin. His average approval over the full course of his Presidency has been 39.1. The next lowest are Truman and Carter, who were both just above 45. In other words, Jimmy Carter’s AVERAGE approval rating (45.5) was higher than Trump’s HIGHEST (45). Considering the consistently awful economic news in Carter’s era versus the comparatively healthy economic engine of today, that comparison must sting!

First look at The Front Runner

(Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart.)

Hart was the early front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 when his life was shattered by allegations of an affair with Donna Rice. To this day, both Hart and Rice have denied a sexual relationship.

Perhaps they are telling the truth. Conservative icon Barry Goldwater once remarked of the liberal Hart: “You can disagree with him politically, but I have never met a man who is more honest and more moral.”

Perhaps they are not. Vanity Fair revealed in a very detailed Gail Sheehy piece in September of 1987: “A political friend of Hart’s for the last ten years says, ‘Gary was compulsive about seeking out women, sometimes for a sexual relationship, sometimes not. It was a compulsion, but it was not about sex, even if the relationship was sexual. The compulsion was to defy the rules and still have it all, on his terms.'”

Curious sidebar:

For a quarter of a century nobody knew the identity of the woman who made the anonymous tips that eventually corralled Rice at Hart’s townhouse. Wikipedia recounts the story: “In late April 1987, The Miami Herald claimed that an anonymous informant contacted the paper to relate that Hart was having an affair with a friend, provided details about the affair, and told the Herald that Hart was going to meet this person at his Washington, D.C., townhouse on May 1. As a result, a team of Herald reporters followed Donna Rice on a flight from Miami to Washington, D.C., then staked out Hart’s townhouse that evening and the next Saturday, and observed a young woman and Hart together. The Herald reporters confronted Hart on Saturday evening in an alley about his relationship with Rice. Hart replied, ‘I’m not involved in any relationship.’ and alleged that he had been set up.”

In 2014, some details about the tipster finally came to light. Those details also cast some doubt on Rice’s denials of the affair. Perhaps she never actually had a sexual relationship with Hart, but it seems that she told two girlfriends that she intended to do just that.

Gary Hart is still alive and kickin’ at 81. He was active as recently as last year, as the U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland under Barack Obama.

George Snuffleupagus finally accepts the plea deal.

I’ll never forget my time in Greece back in the 90s, when I picked up the Athens phone book and actually found three people that were NOT named Papadopoulos. I guess it must be Greek for “Greek guy.”

(It actually means “son of a priest,” so I guess those Greek Orthodox priests are distinctly more hetero than the Catholic ones.)

Chuck 90-10 in yet another see-thru top, presumably in 2014

That’s Charli XCX, for you non-Romans.

Something I never learned in school, but discovered just now: how to do Roman numerals for various larger numbers. (I guess I should have known that there had to be a way, but I never gave it any thought.) You just write an overscore above the letter to mean “multiplied by a thousand,” or two lines above a letter to indicate “multiplied by a million.”


You live in Pittsburgh and you want to read the Saturday paper? Tough luck.

Same problem occurs on Tuesday. You want to see how the Pirates did on Monday or Friday? Check the internet, bubba. (Hint: just assume they lost.)

The Pittsburgh metropolitan area has more than two million people, making it the largest American metro without a daily newspaper.

Bebe Rexha bootylicious at the beach

I got to wondering about the ethnicity of the name Rexha. Basque? Portuguese? Catalan?

The correct answer was “none of the above.” Her parents are ethnic Albanians, which led me to realize that I know absolutely nothing about the Albanian language. What I found is interesting. According to Wikipedia, “Albanian is considered an isolate within the Indo-European language family; no other language has been conclusively linked to its branch.”

Venezuela pulls ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ because inflation has made the top prize meaningless

In US currency, a million bolivars is currently worth four dollars and two cents.

That was the value when I started typing the sentence. It was probably quite a bit lower by the time I added the period. By the time you read this, it probably won’t be enough to buy a roll of toilet paper.

That’s just theoretical. Venezuela actually has no toilet paper.

Although they can use bolivars.

Cohen pleads guilty

“Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts, admitting that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.”

“Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

Cohen chose to plead guilty to eight counts. Here is a list. He is likely to be sentenced to 3-6 years in prison. Had he gone to court and been found guilty, he might have faced about 65 years in the hoosegow.

Here is something important buried deep inside the story: The terms of the plea deal do NOT require him to co-operate with the Mueller investigation!

Manafort jury: guilty on 8 counts, no agreement on the other 10

“Manafort was found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. He faces a maximum of 80 years in prison.”

Given the hopelessly deadlocked jury, the judge declared a mistrial on the other ten counts. As of the time I type this, the prosecutors have not said whether they intend to re-try the ten undecided counts. To complicate matters still further, Manafort still has to face seven more counts in a completely separate trial.

Manafort’s defense team has not discussed its appeal strategy.

How many humans would it take to keep our species alive?

“How many crew members would be needed for an interstellar voyage that might last dozens of generations? In other words, what is the minimum number of people required to deliver and successfully plant a self-sustaining population of Homo sapiens on another Earth?”