Tuesday, October 29th, 2019


In The Room When It Happened

"I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine." Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, was in on Trump's infamous quid pro quo call with the Ukrainian president. His testimony confirms, once again, what we already know. AP: Army officer says he raised concerns about Trump and Ukraine.

+ "I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantry officer, I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart." Read Alexander Vindman's Opening Statement.

+ "After Bill Taylor testified last week to multiple corrupt quid pro quos between the Trump team and Ukraine, President Trump attacked him as a 'Never Trumper.' He did so despite the fact that Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, was selected for his job just a few months ago by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Good luck trying to pull that with the latest big witness." WaPo: Why Alexander Vindman's testimony is big.

+ But wait... "Vindman would seem like a difficult witness to attack: a career soldier, an active-duty lieutenant colonel in the Army, a Purple Heart recipient for a wound from an IED in Iraq. Yet imagining that Trump's allies might struggle to impugn Vindman badly overestimates their scruples." The Atlantic: Trump's Defenders Are Now Attacking the Patriotism of a Purple Heart Officer. (These attacks on Vindman were the most predictable thing ever. After McCain, Goldstar families, and Mueller, the issue isn't that Trump and his henchmen are attacking another patriot. The issue is that 40% of American voters can see this despicable treachery and be OK with it. That is the great American threat from within.)

+ Next stop: Open hearings. Here's the latest from the impeachment pit from CNN and NYT.


Street Cred

"For 13 days the Lebanese people have waited for a decision for a political solution that stops the deterioration ... And I have tried, during this period, to find a way out, through which to listen to the voice of the people." NPR: Lebanon's Prime Minister Hariri Resigns After Weeks of Protests in the Streets.


Post Fighty Tighty Whitey Confirms Permanent Goodnighty

"The intelligence source had been motivated to give up Baghdadi out of a sense of revenge, and had been present at the leader's compound when the raid took place." Vice: Stolen Underwear and a Vengeful Spy Led to Baghdadi's Undoing.

+ Trump Officials Had No Clue Where He Got ‘Whimpering' Detail in His Baghdadi Raid Account. (Let's not focus on these minor political fibs and instead focus on the fact that Trump killed Baghdadi with his bare hands. He would've used his feet too, but the bone spurs prevented it...)

+ Time: "Three weeks after President Donald Trump ordered US forces to pull out of northern Syria, American spy agencies are seeing disturbing intelligence. Turkish-backed militias, armed by Ankara, have killed civilians in areas abandoned by the US ... The officials say they fear that the militias committing those potential war crimes may be using weapons that the US sold to Turkey."


Speed Demons

"Other forms of media have already embraced faster playback speed. YouTube lets viewers watch clips at up to 2 times the normal rate, as does Apple's podcast app." Bloomberg: Netflix Experiment Lets You Watch Movies at 1.5 Times the Speed. (Modern media companies want to consume more than all of your time.)

+ The other benefit? The more you watch, the more they know. NYT: They Know What You Watched Last Night. (I live in power-less Norcal. Last night, I watched candles flickering and my kids slowly devolve into especially aggro characters from Lord of the Flies.)


Likeness Monster

ESPN: NCAA clears way for athletes to profit from names, images and likenesses. "The board members said in a release Tuesday that all changes should make sure student-athletes have the same opportunities to make money as all other students." (Wow, that almost sounds like the NCAA wants to join free society...)


Power Trip

"Frustration and anger mounted across Northern California as the state's biggest utility began another round of fire-prevention blackouts Tuesday that could leave millions of people without electricity, some for five days or longer." Anger rises as California utility imposes more blackouts.

+ The power outages (my house has been down for days) out here are really a trip. We get almost no information. An entire state is now being held hostage by a company that can't keep us safe from its products. The power is off. The fires keep going. Vox: New fires are spreading in California despite power blackouts to prevent ignition.

+ Los Angeles has issued an unprecedented extreme red flag warning. Cell service is dropping in some of the hardest hit fire zones in Northern California. Here's the latest on California's fires from The Guardian and the SF Chronicle.


Bittersweet Chocolate

"The failure to make progress against deforestation has tarnished the image and credibility of the chocolate industry at a time when it is already under fire for its practices in West Africa. The Washington Post reported in June about the use of child labor in West African cocoa fields, which has persisted despite promises decades ago to stop it." WaPo: The Trouble with Chocolate. "Anytime someone bites on a chocolate bar in the United States, a tree is being cut down ... If we continue like that, in two, three, four years there will be no more forests." (Happy Halloween, everybody!)

+ "Last year Nestlé siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label. Though it's on federal land, the Swiss bottled water giant paid the US Forest Service and state practically nothing, and it profited handsomely: Nestlé Waters' 2018 worldwide sales exceeded $7.8bn." The fight to stop Nestlé from taking America's water to sell in plastic bottles.

+ "Nine of the 10 states that emit the most heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution per person helped block the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have been the largest effort by the U.S. government to limit climate change. Four of those states, including Kentucky, were among those most often hit by disasters in the past 10 years — generally powerful storms, which science shows are worsening as the planet warms." The Center for Public Integrity on A Disastrous Disconnect.


Goal Kicked to the Curb

"The sanction was swiftly criticized by the anti-discrimination network Fare, which said it was disappointed Bulgaria had not been expelled from the competition after being found guilty of a third offense this year, while Kick It Out said Uefa had 'missed an opportunity' to send the right message." The Guardian: Bulgaria ordered to play one game behind closed doors over racism. (This rabid, and largely unchecked, racism at soccer games is part of a much broader rise of hate, racial taunting, and antisemitism spreading across Europe.)


Taking the Fifth

Your company is called Fourth Floor Productions, but we're on the second floor. "I used to have an office in midtown Manhattan. Fifty-third Street and Broadway, in the Ed Sullivan Theatre building, which was really, for all intents and purposes, an abandoned building." So you had the fourth floor? "No. I had the third floor." The New Yorker: 'The World Is, of Course, Insane': A Conversation with Errol Morris.


Bottom of the News

"The bizarre and unsettling events that unfolded 40 years ago this month, on October 25, 1979, have been described by scholars as 'one of the most bizarre chapters in the history of American education.' Many questions remain. What possessed the students? Was the Devil truly at large in the Sunshine State, among the bikinis and rollerskating retirees of South Beach? Now, for the first time, former staff and students have revealed how violence, black magic, an exile obsessed with glory, and teenaged murder created America's high school from hell." Jeff Maysh: Hysteria High: How Demons Destroyed a Florida School. (The word Florida almost seems redundant...)

+ "For people who want to join this online tattoo party but aren't as ready as I have been to lend a body part to a stranger with a needle, a sneaky alternative has gained momentum online: semipermanent tattoos." Tattoos Now Have an Exit Strategy.

+ "I was also an emotional wreck during my balloon years. That's a common side effect, I believe, of being in love with your best friend." Diary of an Awkward Teenage Balloon Artist.