Tuesday, November 19th, 2019


Right Matters

"Dad, [that] I'm sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth." So said Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman in his impeachment hearing opening remarks. As a teen in Holocaust ravaged Europe, having lost his entire family, my own dad crawled on his hands and knees into the wintery solitude of the Polish forest where he survived alone for months before joining the Partisans, fighting the Nazis, and eventually coming to America for its freedoms and opportunities; of which he took advantage, becoming a remarkable success and a leading philanthropist. With the breaking glass of Kristallnacht still echoing through her neighborhood, my mom and her sister escaped to a children's home in France, survived the war, and boarded a boat for San Francisco where she has spent a lifetime developing and supporting anti-hate educational efforts. Neither of my parents came to America with the hope that they'd have to watch another freedom seeking, loving, and defending Jewish immigrant, who has represented his country with courage and grace, have his service maligned and impugned in a pathetic attempt to obscure the misdeeds of a blatantly corrupt president who can barely open his mouth without parroting Putin-authored conspiratorial talking points. I'm sorry my parents had sit in front of their TV today and watch repeated attempts to obscure the truth by partisan sycophants going to bottomless depths to protect a man only interested in serving himself, at the expense of Alex Vindman, a man whose adult life has been spent serving America. But I'm heartened by the fact that Vindman did himself, his country, and his fellow Jewish children of immigrants — like me — so proud during the hearings. That a Purple Heart recipient's greatest act of bravery is speaking the simple truth is a reminder of how far America has been dragged into the cesspool of Trumpism. His unwillingness to release his grip on his ethics is a promising reminder that, slowly but surely, we will pull ourselves out of this sludge. At the close of his testimony, Vindman was asked why he was confident he could tell his dad not to worry. He answered: "Because this is America. This is the country I've served and defended, that all of my brothers have served, and here, right matters." That's true. But not without Americans like Alex Vindman.

+ Jim Himes on the attacks on Vindman's character: "It's the kind of thing you say when you're defending the indefensible."

+ Here's the latest from the impeach pit from CNN and WaPo.


For Mica

"The boy is 10 years old, but he doesn't go to school. He [crawls] through pitch-black tunnels inside the makeshift mine, his fingers picking through the earth, collecting and sorting shards of mica ... The minerals he picks up will soon make their way through an opaque supply chain from Africa to Asia before landing in millions of products — electronics, appliances, even trains — that wind up in America." NBC News: How mica mined by kids in Madagascar ends up in products used by millions of Americans.


Nationalist Geographic

"Miller's emails show one of the president's closest aides, and the architect of many of his hard-line immigration policies, citing white-nationalist sources and pursuing the same goal they sought to realize: the restoration of immigration restrictions explicitly designed to keep America white." The Atlantic: Trump's White-Nationalist Vanguard. (But his emails...)

+ "The question now is whether any of this can be made to matter. Miller's aversion to nonwhite immigrants, after all, is hardly a secret — it's why he has his job in the first place. He's been pushing white nationalist policies for three years, championing the Muslim ban and the sadistic policy of family separation and encouraging Trump to slash refugee admissions." Michelle Goldberg in the NYT: Stephen Miller Is a White Nationalist. Does It Matter?

+ NBC The U.S. has held a record 69,550 migrant children in government custody in 2019.

+ Buzzfeed: Trump Is Sending Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala. His Administration Privately Admitted It Had No Idea What Would Happen To Them Next.


Settle Mentality

"The Trump administration on Monday said it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy and further undermining the Palestinians' effort to gain statehood." AP: US angers Palestinians with reversal on Israeli settlements.


Quiet As It’s Kept

"The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens ... Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as 'serving time.'" An investigative report from ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune. The Quiet Rooms: Children are being locked away, alone and terrified, in schools across Illinois. Often, it's against the law.

+ "By day, New York's 114,085 homeless students live in plain sight: They study on the subway and sprint through playgrounds. At night, these children sometimes sleep in squalid, unsafe rooms, often for just a few months until they move again. School is the only stable place they know." And interactive piece from the NYT: 114,000 Students in N.Y.C. Are Homeless. These Two Let Us Into Their Lives.


Mind if I (E)merge?

"One day soon an emerging technology highlighted in this report will allow you to virtually teleport to a distant site and actually feel the handshakes and hugs of fellow cyber travelers. Also close to becoming commonplace: humanoid (and animaloid) robots designed to socialize with people; a system for pinpointing the source of a food-poisoning outbreak in just seconds; minuscule lenses that will pave the way for diminutive cameras and other devices; strong, biodegradable plastics that can be fashioned from otherwise useless plant wastes." Scientific American (and that's not an oxymoron) with an interesting look at the Top 10 Emerging Technologies Of 2019. (In my house, all ten are Tik Tok.)

+ "Within hours, the mound will be sorted, ground, chopped, shredded, cleaned and heated into a sort of garbage caramel, then resurrected as tiny pseudo-plastic pellets that can be made into everyday items like trays and packing crates." WaPo: Revolutionary recycling? A new technology turns everyday trash into plastic treasure.

+ OK, I buried the lede a bit in this section: This slippery new coating could make toilets less filthy.


College Station in Life

"Some may discount the idea that the true value of higher education can be quantified, let alone calculated in dollars. But given surging student-loan debt nationally, the study's authors argue it's a question that cannot be ignored." WaPo: Is college worth it? A Georgetown study measures return on investment — with some surprising results. (Sometimes, my kids make me wonder if elementary school is worth it...)


The Elephant in the Room

"At a time of unprecedented mass extinctions, no animal epitomizes the global biodiversity free fall more than the Asian elephant. Paul Kvinta travels to Laos to visit a moon-shot project aimed at saving the country's 400 remaining wild behemoths, investigate the strange underworld of wildlife trafficking—and make a very unexpected purchase." Outside: I Bought an Elephant to Find Out How to Save Them. (And I thought it was bad having to pick up after my beagles.)


King’s Ransom

"She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn't around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff." ESPN: How NBA executive Jeff David stole $13 million from the Sacramento Kings.


Bottom of the News

"A Miami professor who's an expert on drug trafficking and organized crime was charged by the U.S. with laundering money from Venezuela, skimming more than $250,000 for himself." (And they say academics can't do anything!)

+ Esquire: "There are already many theories about where Baby Yoda came from, ranging from cloning to little-known characters within the canon and non-canon Star Wars universe. But the most obvious explanation for the origin of this little green character begs an important question with massive implications within the Star Wars universe: Did Jedi master Yoda f*%K?" (That certainly gives new meaning to the phrases, "Feel the force" and "Judge me by my size, do you?")

+ ... which leads us to the greatest internet meme in a long time: Boomer, OK.