Wednesday, February 27th, 2019


Checks, Lies, and Audiotape

The golden age of television has become the golden age of C-Span. On Wednesday, Americans were glued to their screens as Michael Cohen testified in front of the House Oversight Committee. As expected, the hearing was partisan, with one side trying to find out the truth about Donald Trump and the other side trying to point out the past lies of Michael Cohen. If your jaw hadn't already been on the ground for two years, it would have dropped as we repeatedly heard one side of the aisle insist that they won't take the word of a liar -- and they were saying that in defense of Donald Trump. Yes, Michael Cohen is a liar, a bully, and a convicted felon. Everyone knows testimony from bad guys is the backbone of much of the criminal justice system. You don't get good people to flip. To pretend otherwise is an oversight too preposterous to stomach -- even coming from members of a committee with oversight in its name. So far, the line of the testimony came from Cohen when he addressed Trump's advocates: "I'm responsible for your silliness because I did the same thing that you're doing now for ten years. I protected Mr. Trump ... I can only warn people the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering." Here's the latest on the hearing from The Guardian, CNN, and WaPo.

+ Many of Cohen's key claims came in his opening statement, and include: Trump told him to lie about the Stormy Daniels payment, Trump knew in advance about the Wikileaks email dump, and Trump was pushing for the Trump Tower Moscow deal long after he told Americans he had no dealings with Russia. Cohen referred to Trump as "a racist, a conman, a cheat." Many experts described Michael Cohen's written opening statement as shocking or stunning. The sad, pathetic truth is that it is not stunning at all. It's an acknowledgment of the obvious. Full disclosure: I have Confirmation Bias: I'm biased towards believing things that confirm what I can see with my own eyes. From Wired, here are five key takeaways from Cohen's testimony so far.


Friends With Benefits of the Doubt

The man Michael Cohen described as a lying conman who never expected to win the election and who referred to his campaign as the 'greatest infomercial in political history' has pulled America out of one international nuclear arms deal and is currently negotiating another with North Korea. According to the president, "The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon — Very Interesting!" WaPo: Trump offers public embrace of Kim Jong Un as summit begins in Hanoi.

+ "Asked whether he'd walked back his vow to insist upon the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Trump said he had not ... Questioned later whether he planned to declare an end to the Korean War, he said: 'We'll see.'" Here's the latest from Vietnam.

+ The New Yorker: How Civilian Firms Fact-Check North Korea's Denuclearization Efforts: "In the past, North Korea's isolation might have allowed the Administration to present an unchallenged narrative. But, as commercial satellite photography has become significantly cheaper and more powerful—to the point that it rivals that of intelligence agencies—civilian experts have been able to monitor North Korea's nuclear program. What they are seeing differs dramatically from what the Administration has been saying."


Pak Mentality

While Americans are split-screening the Cohen testimony and the Hanoi summit, much of the rest of the world is worried about another situation involving two foes that already have nukes. From BBC: "Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian military jets and captured a pilot in a major escalation between the nuclear powers over Kashmir."


Land Ho!

Is Congress hopelessly divided? Not on certain issues, including one that might surprise you. NYT: In Show of Bipartisanship, House Approves a Sweeping Land Conservation Bill. The bill that has already been approved by the Senate "offered a rare moment of bipartisanship in a divided chamber and a rare victory for environmentalists."

+ Outside: What's in the Natural Resources Management Act?


Across the Border

NPR with the upsetting stat of the day: "In each of the past four years, 1,000 or more immigrant children who arrived at the southern U.S. border without their parents have reported being sexually abused while in government custody, according to federal records released Tuesday." (Maybe those who come seeking asylum are more likely to be crime victims than perpetrators?)


Boss Mode

"The presumption that tough bosses get results — and fast — compared with gentler leaders is widespread ... But researchers who study organizations, productivity and leadership styles attribute the achievements of such figures to exceptional ability. The research thus far has found no evidence to support the axiom that tougher bosses get better results." NYT: When the Bully Is the Boss. (I hate my boss and I work alone.)


Shelf Control

"I feel like they resent the fact that I'm not a robot and that I'm made of flesh and bone." ABC Australia takes you inside an Amazon warehouse where "staff are constantly timed and monitored as they pack goods under instruction from an algorithm — all so you can ‘buy it now' and get it tomorrow." They resent the fact I'm not a robot.

+ "If your job can be easily explained, it can be automated." The New Yorker: Are Robots Competing for Your Job?


Road Less Traveled

"It crosses several communities, a handful of mountain ranges, a national park, and one reservoir, where bobcats, foxes, and wild horses roam free. There's life, yes, but not a familiar way of life for many. It's a place where the lines between John Wayne Westerns and everyday life blur, where ghost towns bleed into living ones." NatGeo: This is the loneliest road in America. (During the Cohen testimony, all the roads seemed pretty lonely.)


I Gotta Wear Shades

"A simple blood test can predict if a pregnant woman is at risk of giving birth prematurely." That's one of the innovations that Bill Gates listed when asked to name 10 breakthrough technologies. MIT Tech Review: How we'll reinvent the future.


Bottom of the News

"For some men, taking an act that's traditionally solitary and potentially shameful, and instead turning it into a communal bonding experience, can be powerfully freeing." GQ: Why Straight Men Are Joining Masturbation Clubs. (Dudes, the whole world is one giant masturbation club. If you have a member, you are one.)

+ "I'd get 400 toilet rolls at a time." How it feels to win a lifetime supply of something.