Friday, December 13th, 2019


Britain’s Hair Apparent

The mop topped. The shag carpet bombed the opposition. Boris locks out Labour. A huge Johnson win. However you put it, Boris Johnson and his conservative party won a hair raising victory in the UK. Johnson said his mandate means that the UK "deserves a break from wrangling, a break from politics, and a permanent break from talking about Brexit."

+ Johnson "not only inherited a change that has been slowly unpicking Britain's political map for decades, but he did so at the very moment the accelerant applied by the EU referendum meant he could finally turn dozens of formerly safe Labour seats Tory blue." The Atlantic: It's Boris Johnson's Britain Now. "To understand the scale of what has happened, remember that less than four years ago, Johnson was still London's mayor and undecided about whether to back Leave or Remain in the referendum."

+ "What does Johnson's victory mean? In short order, it means that the debate over Brexit, which has traumatized British politics for the past three and a half years, is over." The New Yorker: Boris Johnson Wins, and Britain Chooses the Devil It Knows.


Resting Mitch Face

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the impeachment process is moving forward. From NPR: House Judiciary Committee Approves 2 Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump. "In contrast to Thursday's contentious back-and-forth between the two parties, Friday's session was devoid of rancor, or even any debate. Immediately after calling the session to order, Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., ordered two votes, one for each article. Both were approved 23-17 along party lines."

+ The full House vote will take place next week, with the Senate trial starting after the new year. What can we expect there? Mitch McConnell has already announced there is "no chance" Trump will be removed from office and that he's "going to take my cues from the president's lawyers." (Every defendant has a right to a jury of their lawyers...) Here's the latest from the impeach pit from WaPo.

+ Next week will be a busy political week even by our new standards. And now, the U.S. and China Have Reached an Initial Trade Deal. (Any final China/US trade deal must be compared to what was in the The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that Trump pulled out of before all the tariffs started.)


Weekend Whats

What to Book: They say opposites attract, which helps explain why my wife is able to read a ton of complex material and retain the information forever. While I'm binge-watching Maddow, she reads almost nonstop, burning through a book every couple days. So when she makes her annual fiction picks, she knows what she's talking about. The What's Best Fiction of 2019.

+ What to Internet: Who and what was trending in 2019? Take a look courtesy of Twitter's dive into the biggest and best (and weirdest) stuff of the year. And if books and tweets are too old school for you, then check out the videos and creative community that made TikTok so lovable in 2019.


Alt Shift

"Now, I'm 16, and I've been able to reflect on how I got sucked into that void—and how others do, too. My brief infatuation with the alt-right has helped me understand the ways big tech companies and their algorithms are contributing to the problem of radicalization—and why it's so important to be skeptical of what you read online." FastCo: I became part of the alt-right at age 13, thanks to Reddit and Google.


Getting Your Irish Up

"Netflix received 61 film and television nominations, nearly double the amount of its nearest competitor. The streaming giant also had the movie with the most nominations, Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman,' and nearly half of the film best-actor field ... The goal is to win support and, often, votes. But the specter of a company sending journalists on free trips to achieve that aim opens a new front in these prize wars, demonstrating Netflix's win-at-all-costs mentality combined with an ability to foot those costs." WaPo: Netflix sends journalists on pricey trips, raising questions and angering rivals. (Technology is known for its pace of change. Big tech companies sure changed from pretty good to sort of bad in a hurry.) Sidenote: The Irishman? Really?

+ Variety: Danny Aiello, ‘Do the Right Thing' and ‘Moonstruck' Actor, Dies at 86.


Give Me The Good Shit

ESPN: These researchers think poop could unlock athletic supremacy. Are they right? "Scheiman went to great pains to obtain the roughly 400 samples in this freezer. Each one started with a somewhat uncomfortable conversation with the athlete -- he approached them noting that he's a scientist and that they'd be helping with an experiment about the microbiome, all before circling around to the request for a fecal sample. He then spent hours every day driving around the greater Boston area to pick up samples from donors' homes. Each of the samples contains millions of bacteria; he put them in the freezer to keep them viable for later study, the way you might store a leftover lasagna." (Although, I wouldn't recommend keeping them in the same section of the freezer.)

+ "A new analysis by The New York Times, an update of the one conducted last summer, suggests that the advantage these shoes bestow is real — and larger than previously estimated. At the moment, they appear to be among only a handful of popular shoes that matter at all for race performance, and the gap between them and the next-fastest popular shoe has only widened." Nike's Fastest Shoes May Give Runners an Even Bigger Advantage Than We Thought.


Rowdy Pardoner

On the way out of office, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued 428 pardons, a number to violent criminals. "Bevin pardoned a man who was sentenced last year to 23 years in prison for raping a 9-year-old child, as well as a woman who was sentenced to life in prison for murder after giving birth in a flea market outhouse in 2003 and discarding the newborn. Bevin also released a man who had been in jail since 2003 for killing his parents and leaving their bodies in a basement when he was 16 years old, a man who hired a hit man to kill his business partner in 1991, and a man who had been on death row for a triple murder in 1983."

+ Lexington Herald Leader: Bevin pardons a KY man convicted of beheading a woman and stuffing her in a barrel.


Better Off Dread

"The secret unit Clarke helped create had an ominous acronym: DREAD, short for Development Research Exploitation and Analysis Department. In the years that followed, the UAE unit expanded its hunt far beyond suspected extremists to include a Saudi women's rights activist, diplomats at the United Nations and personnel at FIFA, the world soccer body. By 2012, the program would be known among its American operatives by a codename: Project Raven." Reuters: White House Veterans Helped Gulf Monarchy Build Secret Surveillance Unit.


Area Man on Local News

Local news is losing viewers and influence. But they've still got the market cornered when it comes to goofs and gaffes. Here are the best news bloopers of 2019. (There not as funny as those who deliver them think they are, but that's part of the fun.)


Feel Good Friday

"Twenty years ago, Robert W. VanSumeren, then 19, stood nervously in a Michigan courtroom as Hillsdale County Circuit Court Judge Michael Smith sentenced him to six years in prison for a string of local robberies. 'I was terrified. I thought my life was finished,' he said. 'I felt really lost and wondered how I'd ever get through it.' On Nov. 22, almost two decades to the day, VanSumeren, now 40, returned to that same courtroom and stood again in front of Smith." WaPo: This former bank robber was just sworn in as a lawyer — by the same judge who once sent him to prison.

+ A Holocaust Survivor Received Anti-Semitic Threats, So Thousands of Supporters Rallied Around Her.

+ Students surprise teacher fighting cancer with Christmas carols on her front lawn. From the teacher: "This should never be about me. It should just be about kindness growing and people realizing that sharing that is powerful. To build that culture and that climate around just noticing the tiny, little things you do make a huge difference and to know the importance of kindness and how you can just incorporate that easily into your day, it's just phenomenal."

+ "This jacket belongs to you and the collective soul of those who love you, those for whom you are the soundtrack of their lives. It should not sit in a billionaire's closet for country club bragging rights. For this reason I humbly and respectfully return it to its rightful owner, which is you." A man bought Olivia Newton-John's 'Grease' jacket for $243,200 for charity, and then gave it back to her. (I got chills, they're multiplying...)

+ WaPo: A man just gave away $12,000 in Christmas toys, starting at the low-income complex where he once lived.

+ Indie booksellers persevere despite Amazon, rising costs.

+ U.S. lab chimps were dumped on Liberia's Monkey Island and left to starve. He saved them.

+ St. John Properties awards employees a total of $10 million in bonuses.

+ Tokyo 2020 receives unprecedented demand for Paralympic Games tickets.

+ "Staff at a care home made a Christmas wish come true for a resident with a visit from a stripper with a 'large chest and big biceps' ... Managers said most people asked for a beach trip or a nice afternoon tea but they decided to respond to the request for a 'fireman' to strip." Was the recipient happy with her gift? "I thought that he was amazing - I wish he could visit us every day." (What a nice present. One can only hope he danced to Dick in a Box.)