Friday, November 22nd, 2019


Raised Character Limits

I can remember the many times I've nervously fumbled for the remote when my kids walked in on me watching politics. Like many parents, I've worked to provide a bit of a shield from the disturbing nature of today's political environment. Sure, adults can remind themselves that all of this is not normal, but my kids are just coming of age. This is the only political environment they've ever known. So to them, sadly, it's normal. That's why I see a very bright side to the past couple weeks during which we were called to serve on impeachment jury duty. For the first time in years, I urged my kids to watch the news with me so they could see the amazing (and often, heroic) examples of remarkably smart, talented, loyal Americans stepping forward to speak the truth. And it wasn't just their testimony. From Alex Vindman, to Marie Yovanovitch, to Fiona Hill, we got to observe the grace, wit, and excellence of patriots, who, regardless of which party is in power, have America's back. Some of the smartest and best people I know sacrifice millions of dollars on the free market because of their dedication to keeping watch over our free country. I'm glad my kids got to see some examples of this dedication playing out in real time. From Mark Leibovich in the NYT: They Toil Gladly Offstage. Impeachment Lands Them in the Spotlight. "They have put faces on a Washington bureaucracy often dismissed and disparaged. Their stories are compellingly human, uniquely American, often immigrant."

+ "Her testimony will also be remembered for her manifest smarts, her directness—a trait of the region where she grew up—her steely self-confidence, and the moral earnestness she displayed." The New Yorker: The Extraordinary Impeachment Testimony of Fiona Hill.


Character Assassination

Meanwhile, way on the other side of the spectrum from today's lead story, the president of the United States was getting back to the business of propagating the Putin-authored conspiracy theories we were just repeatedly warned about. Newshour: Trump doubles down on debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory. That's probably not surprising. Less so is that Trump came up with some lies to further smear Marie Yovanovitch and suggested he was told "she's a woman – we have to be nice." Here's the latest from the impeach pit from CNN.

+ And no, none of this was the worst thing he said this week. "These are the three most infamous politicians to describe opponents as human scum: Hitler. Stalin. Trump." If you missed it yesterday, please read/share my take: On Human Scum…and when enough is enough.

+ "While they were playing with our aid, I wonder, did they know we were dying out here?" Buzzfeed with a perspective on the story from the Ukrainian front line: Dying For Help.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: "As the passengers were contemplating which of these qualified women and men could take the helm of the ship, one of the passengers spoke up. 'I'll do it,' he said loudly with a voice at once high- pitched and hoarse. This man was large and lumpy, and a bit hunched over, and wore a yellow feather in his hair. All the passengers knew him well. They knew him to be the guy who sold cheap faux-gold souvenirs near the putt-putt golf course, who had borrowed money from all of the ship's adults and some of its teenagers, who swindled rubes via three-card monte and pig-in-the-poke, who stayed inside on windy days (the effect on his feather was catastrophic) and who said pretty much anything that popped into his head." The always-excellent Dave Eggers with a biting satire about a ship called Glory and "the loud, clownish, and foul Captain who steers it to the brink of disaster." The Captain and the Glory: An Entertainment. (Dave has written some of America's most insightful and prophetic literature, so I'm relieved that the captain only steered the ship to the brink of disaster...)

+ What to Fix: "In every other industry, a company can be held liable when their product is defective. When engines explode or seatbelts malfunction, car companies recall tens of thousands of vehicles, at a cost of billions of dollars. It only seems fair to say to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter: your product is defective, you are obliged to fix it, no matter how much it costs and no matter how many moderators you need to employ." You absolutely need to watch Sacha Baron Cohen's keynote address at ADL's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate.

+ What to Read: "I parked beside an open sewer full of black, seething water, and walked down a trash-choked alleyway and knocked on a wooden door. It opened into a spacious compound, eerily quiet and green, with rosebushes in bloom ... Wahida had worked for many years as a teacher, and barely spoke. She seemed to communicate by slapping people, hard, across the face. She wandered from one of us to the other, looking for someone to slap. Once, it was me. Mostly it was my interpreter." Ellen Barry in the NYT: The Jungle Prince of Delhi.



"If convicted, Buchanan faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years. 'It was in the privacy of my own home. My husband was right next to me in the same exact manner that I was, and he's not being prosecuted.'" NPR: Utah Woman Charged With Lewdness After Being Topless In Her Own Home.


The Defense Rests

"Star journalists have talked with judges, prosecutors, lawyers and defendants, studying dozens of hearing transcripts, court filings, jail records and arrest reports. We've traveled more than 1,000 miles to sit in rural and urban courtrooms, documenting how Missouri justice plays out. The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to an effective lawyer, and Missouri violates that right every day." Another great and important piece of local journalism, this time from the Kansas City Star: Defenseless: Missouri justice system violates the Constitution every day.


Goal Tending

"I've been out of the hospital for less than five hours,' he said. 'And I'm here. And I'm here for you guys because I care about you guys and I care about everyone that is here, all these families, all right?'" An inspiring, personal story about the painful aftermath of the El Paso Walmart shooting. NYT: 88 Days of Recovery: How a Girls' Soccer Team Healed a Broken Coach.


Skilled Carpenter

"Carpenter grew up in Cedarhurst, New York, eventually moving to southern Vermont in the mid-1970s. He was a skier, but he'd developed a love for the Snurfer, a piece of plywood that sort of resembled a water ski and could be ridden down snowy hills while standing and holding a rope. Carpenter believed he could improve upon the Snurfer by shaping a wider board out of better materials and adding bindings." Outside: Burton Snowboard Founder, Jake Burton Carpenter, Has Died.

+ "Someone could come up with a completely new way to slide down the mountain that's even more thrilling than snowboarding, and I might be saying, 'What a waste of snow! What are these kids doing?' just like the ski establishment said to me ... But I hope I'll be more open-minded.'" WaPo: Jake Burton Carpenter, who outfitted snowboarders and championed their sport, dies at 65.


K Pop

From NY Mag: A Party Drug for the End of the World: How ketamine became the drug of choice for our dissociated moment. "Instead of fueling anxiety and heated close-talk, it makes you feel like you're giving your brain a bath in a pool of warm macaroni. 'Coke brings this intensity to everything ... K does the opposite — it provides this looseness, and the feeling that things really aren't significant.' And these days, who really wants to spend their free time doing a bunch of uppers and talking about the news?" (Definitely not me, that's how I spend my work time...)


Glass Backwards

"The unveil seemed to be going to plan until Musk and his chief designer decided for kicks that they'd throw a metal ball at the car's driver-side window. And holy hell, it was not worth it, according to a video I've watched approximately 37 times." Elon makes news again (maybe on purpose, maybe not, who knows): Help, I Can't Stop Watching This Video Of Elon Musk Breaking His Cybertruck Windows. (Maybe this is just Elon's ingenious plan to lure the short sellers back into the market...)


Feel Good Friday

"When we merged, and when they started to come up to our service, and when we went down there, it gave us the opportunity to say, Wow, these people are just like us ... We're all here lifting up the kingdom of God at the end of the day: white, black, Asian, it doesn't matter. We all have the same purpose." Batya Ungar-Sargon in The New York Review of Books: A Tale of Two Churches.

+ "I don't want to hear Biden say 'I still stutter' to prove some grand point; I want to hear him say it because doing so as a presidential candidate would mean that stuttering truly doesn't matter—for him, for me, or for our 10-year-old selves." A really nice story from John Hendrickson in The Atlantic (and it's not about politics). What Joe Biden Can't Bring Himself to Say.

+ "Matthews said his primary motivation in seeking out the fan was 'just to make sure that he was in a good state of mind and was enjoying the golf and wasn't feeling bad about the situation.'" WaPo: Why a pro golfer hugged a fan whose outburst caused him to miss a crucial putt.

+ NPR: "A federal jury in Tucson, Ariz., has acquitted a humanitarian aid worker who was charged with harboring a pair of migrants from Central America after Border Patrol agents reported seeing him provide food and shelter in the Arizona desert." (Just reading that lede shows you how sick and stupid this case was from the start. But I know, this the feel good section. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling good...)

+ Baby Abandoned Near Dumpster After Birth Is Now CEO of Company Valued at Over $62 Million. (I mean, he's not a still baby, but I don't write their headlines, only mine.)

+ Bleacher Report: Meet the Blind RB from Arizona Who's Scoring Touchdowns.

+ A Blind Man Sees His Birthday Candles Again, Thanks to a Bionic Eye.

+ Tiny home village to help people transition out of homelessness.

+ They bring medical care to the homeless and build relationships to save lives.

+ LA Times: Homeless people are served a five-course dinner at an O.C. home. It's about dignity and human connection.

+ The First and Final King of Bloodless Bullfighting: "Unlike their traditional counterparts, 'bloodless bullfights' have the matador dodging and weaving around charging toros in order to remove a flower attached to the animal's back with Velcro." (This is a slightly less dangerous version of a game I play with my cats.)

+ Springfield woman donates hundreds of dolls with prosthetic legs to Missouri hospital.

+ Meet the Good Dogs Rescuing Koalas From Australia's Wildfires.

+ Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough. (Finally, Bill might have a decent payday...)