Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019


William Tells

"When Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that the U.S. had been involved in a quid pro quo, it was, then, a classic Kinsley gaffe: a politician accidentally telling the truth. Mulvaney tried to take back his admission, but Taylor's account shows he was right the first time—as though the testimony of other diplomats and a plain reading of Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky weren't already evidence enough. Taylor's testimony reportedly elicited 'sighs and gasps' in the closed-door hearing, and it's clear why." The Atlantic: William Taylor Delivers the Smoking Gun. (Trump's last defense: Taylor's testimony was delivered in a non-smoking area...)

+ "His testimony was laden with precision — names, dates, places, policy statements and diplomatic nuance, not typically the stuff of intrigue." AP: The diplomat took notes. Then he told a story.

+ But Trump was merely trying to stop the scourge of corruption! Nope. WaPo: Trump administration sought billions of dollars in cuts to programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere. Still, Volodymyr Zelensky didn't feel any pressure from Trump and his shadow diplomats! Well, actually... AP: Ukrainian leader felt Trump pressure before taking office. Yeah, but, as the president asked on Twitter this morning, "Where's the whistleblower?" Uh, they're basically everywhere at this point. Long story short: Trump's defense on Ukraine has completely collapsed.

+ How do we known the substance battle is over? Because a group of House Republicans barged into an impeachment deposition: "The protest was part of a Republican effort to change the narrative from the substance of the allegations against Trump to complaints about the process." Who greenlit the effort to obstruct justice? Seriously, are you people paying attention at all? (Sidenote: "The group alleges that they are being shut out of the impeachment process, but there are Republicans on the three panels conducting the investigation." Oh, the list of Republicans in on the highly secretive hearings includes the Veep's brother.) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Here's the latest from WaPo.


Deep State of Gratitude

"Before answering the Secretary, I consulted both my wife and a respected former senior Republican official who has been a mentor to me. I will tell you that my wife, in no uncertain terms, strongly opposed the idea. The mentor counseled: if your country asks you to do something, you do it." This is a part of William Taylor's testimony that really caught my eye. His own family member didn't want him to take the gig Pompeo was offering, but he did it because he felt a loyalty to serve his country (even though he had already done so for a lifetime). Don't let Trump and his henchmen sour your views of those who serve. These fine folks are making huge personal and financial sacrifices to put country ahead of self. They've never been under this kind of attack, so now would be a good time to remind them we appreciate their service. And this week, William Taylor served well. Here's his entire opening statement.


Pound Sand

"It's a very volatile part of the world, but so far it's been pretty amazing what's gone on recently. Lost no soldiers, didn't have a soldier hurt. We didn't have a finger broken. It's pretty unusual, and we have thousands of soldiers that have moved out or are moving out of various areas ... Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand." Trump has lifted all sanctions against Turkey and says the situation is under "very good control." Here's the latest from CNN.

+ "Now we have to hear the American president calling us children and saying that this is just a quarrel in a sand-box with Turkey. It is so mortifying to hear these words. We Kurds fought ISIS, the most dangerous terrorist group of the twenty-first century, on behalf of the entire world. On March 28, when we defeated the Caliphate, I remember all the Western heads of state congratulating our forces. Where are they now?" NYRB: A Dispatch from Kurdish Syria.

+ "Rare visits to two prisons for former residents of Islamic State-held territory in northeastern Syria by The New York Times this week laid bare the enormity of a growing legal and humanitarian crisis that the world has largely chosen to ignore." ‘What Is Going to Happen to Us?' Inside ISIS Prison, Children Ask Their Fate.


Trafficking Tragedy

"To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil. The best thing we can do in memory of those victims is to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice." CNN: A murder investigation was launched after 39 bodies were found in a truck container in Essex, southeast England, this morning.


World Leader Meets National Leaders

"Congressional lawmakers delivered a broad lashing of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, sniping at his company's plans to launch a digital currency, its pockmarked track record on privacy and diversity, and its struggles to prevent the spread of misinformation online." WaPo: Facebook's Zuckerberg takes broad lashing on Libra, 2020 election and civil rights at congressional hearing. (Congress v Facebook is like the Dodgers v Yankees. I find myself rooting against both sides.)


Critical Path

"It's really only good news for those of us driving or riding in cars. Everyone else, especially vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists, is being killed at an alarming rate. The number of pedestrians killed — 6,283, an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year — was the highest such number since 1990." The Verge: Drivers are killing pedestrians at the highest rate in almost 30 years.

+ As cars become smarter and safer, some members of Congress want to require them to be built to prevent drunk driving.


The Sky is Falling

"As of August 31 this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had documented at least 4,251 aerial strikes in Afghanistan for 2019, more than double the total for the whole of 2018. Most of these, it says, are thought to be by drones. These attacks are exacting an increasing toll on the Afghan people. This year, according to the United Nations, foreign coalition forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than the Taliban or ISIS-allied forces." MIT Tech Review: Life in the most drone-bombed country in the world.


Throw the Book at Em

"The NCAA has placed Cal Poly on two years of probation and will force the school to vacate regular season and conference tournament records in 'most of its sports programs' after an investigation concluded the school did not properly monitor its book scholarship program." If that's sounds a little ridiculous, wait until you read the whole thing. ESPN: NCAA comes down on Cal Poly for books violation.


47 Billion, Give or Take 47 Billion

From CNBC: "Without deal, WeWork would have been out of money next week, sources say." (The company and its bankers were just trying to sell you shares in the company at a $47 billion valuation. Is this the biggest fraud in the history of tech startups? I mean, for starters, it's not even a tech company...)


Bottom of the News

"Nearly 60 percent of Uber riders never tip, about 1 percent always tip, and those who tip leave an average of $3, according to a new analysis of the company's rollout of in-app tipping in 2017. And if you loved those gratuity factoids, rest assured these are just the tip of the iceberg." WaPo: Who tips best on Uber? Economists analyzed 40 million trips. Here's what they found.

+ Walmart stores post ominous signs warning of a 'national supply shortage' of dish soap that's expected to persist for weeks.

+ The Guardian: Chinese cafe featuring dogs dyed to look like pandas facing backlash. (Now I feel bad about dying one of my beagles orange. But someone has to play Trump in our family skits...)