Wednesday, December 18th, 2019


Check, Mate

Sad! It's one of Donald Trump's classic twitter sign offs and a perfect headline for this day. It's a sad day because it's come to this. And it's a sad day because it's clear this won't be enough to stop the damage. This is a historic day at a moment when a huge swath of the country no longer believes in history; a rare day when truth wins out in an era when truth itself is on the ropes. After showing remarkable restraint and enduring a relentless attack on American institutions, the separation of powers, and the norms associated with human decency, the House was confronted with an impeachable offense so obvious and egregious they had to finally check this president and stick it to Teflon Don. It's the third time a president has been impeached and quite possibly the first time Trump has ever been told "No." As a candidate, Trump famously said, "I alone can fix it." What's clear from the impeachment testimony and the wanton partisan reaction to this crime in progress is that Trump is anything but alone. His actions have been aided and abetted, at every step, by accomplices and enablers. So yes, it's a sad day. But also one when we should be grateful for Americans like Alexander Vindman, Fiona Hill, and Marie Yovanovitch, who had the courage to speak the truth, and who, more importantly, have been willing to sacrifice and serve their country at time when doing so is particularly thankless. With the vote imminent, here's one last visit to the impeach pit from CNN and WaPo.

+ Nancy Pelosi: "I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States. If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president's reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice." Meanwhile, Rep Chris Stewart of Utah summarizes the GOP defense: "It has nothing to do with abuse of power. It has nothing to do with obstruction of Congress. This vote, this day, is about one thing and one thing only: They hate this president. They think we're stupid. They think we made a mistake. They think Hillary Clinton should be the president, and they want to fix that. That's what this vote is." (Editor's note: Nope.)

+ White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham: "The President will be working all day. He will be briefed by staff throughout that day, and could catch some of the proceedings between meetings." (Editor's note: This is what we hate.)

+ Scheduling Note: I'll be traveling and placing my thoughts elsewhere from December 20 through the first of the year. So delivery will be sporadic.


A Baby He Wrote Me a Letter

"Five and a half pages long, signed in Sharpie and sent the afternoon before the House of Representatives was due to impeach him for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the letter officially underscored — for the 'permanent and indelible record' — how angry he had become over the prospect of becoming only the third president in history to have this happen to him." What Trump's letter to Nancy Pelosi makes permanent and indelible is exactly what kind of a person we're dealing with here and what kind of a presidency Trump's enablers are willing to defend. Psychologists may have to add another five and half pages to the DSM (under Impeachmental Disorders). Midway through the typing of Trump's letter in Word, Clippy deserted to Canada. But believe me, I'm under no illusions that these views are universal. Here's a headline from planet unreality: Fox's Lou Dobbs Calls Trump's Pelosi Letter 'Elegant,' Guest Says It's the 'Gettysburg Address of Smear Job False Accusations.' (Four score and seven years should be Trump's sentence...)

+ Jennifer Rubin in WaPo: It is hard to capture how bizarre and frightening Trump's letter to Pelosi is. "What is most striking is the spectacle of the letter itself — a president so unhinged as to issue such an harangue; a White House entirely unable to stop him; a party so subservient to him that it would not trigger a search for a new nominee; a right-wing media bubble that will herald Trump for being Trump and excoriate Democrats for driving the president to this point; and a mainstream media not quite able to address a public temper-tantrum (resorting instead to euphemisms such as 'scorching,' 'searing,' etc.). The letter and the response (or lack thereof) is the perfect encapsulation of the state of American politics — in which one major party has bound itself to the mast of a raging, dangerous narcissist while the other cannot uphold the norms and institutions on which our democracy depends."


Electric Blanket

"China is ramping up its ability to spy on its nearly 1.4 billion people to new and disturbing levels, giving the world a blueprint for how to build a digital totalitarian state." NYT: A Surveillance Net Blankets China's Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers.

+ "Prescribed media guidelines are not unusual in China, where reporters operate within a heavily-censored environment that is tightly controlled by Communist authorities. However, the explicit reference to Xi is likely to sound alarm among freedom of speech advocates." CNN: Beijing calls for Chinese journalists to 'arm their minds' with Xi Jinping Thought. (Remember when the internet era was going to open the world to more truth?)


Voter Roll Playing

"State officials have downplayed the mass cancellation, arguing it is routine 'list maintenance.' Others say the practice amounts to a large-scale and undemocratic voter purge, which comes just over three months before Georgia's presidential primaries." As big a story as impeachment is, the much bigger electoral story is about who gets to vote. And that battle is playing out in key swing states like Wisconsin and potential swing states like Georgia. WaPo: Georgia purged 309,000 voters from its rolls. It's the second state to make cuts in less than a week.


Trolling in the Deep

"By any measure, they concluded, 'a very large area will be blanketed by sediment to such an extent that many animals will not be able to cope with the impact and whole communities will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.'" Wil S. Hylton in The Atlantic: History's Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin. It's underwater—and the consequences are unimaginable. (Or, the next thing humans plan to ruin...)


Because I’m Bad, I’m Bad

"Fortunately, that wasn't the only news. There were other stories out there, stories of conservation, better health, rising living standards, tolerance, peace, cleaner energy and environmental stewardship. Most of that stuff didn't make it onto our Facebook feeds though, and that means that what we saw on our screens in 2019 was not the world. It was a negative image of the world, in both the photographic and tonal senses. Here's a slightly different picture." 99 good news stories.


Shelter in Place

"Before this assignment I spent two decades as a foreign correspondent reporting on dangerous living conditions around the world. It's been jarring to do this report from California. An interactive piece from the NYT: Among the World's Most Dire Places: This California Homeless Camp.


Astrologic Bomb

"'If you illegally travel to Australia by boat you will be returned. Everything you risked to get there will be in vain and you will end up owing everyone,' says the Sagittarius horoscope. The Gemini horoscope warns 'You will lose your wife's jewelry', while Taurian asylum seekers are told "If you illegally travel to Australia by boat, expect to be returned home where you will face the humiliation of failure in your community.'" Buzzfeed: The Australian Government Created A Bizarre And Very Bleak Horoscope Chart To Scare Asylum Seekers. (This could be the most 2019 story of 2019.)


Cast Iron Maiden

"In 2016, when she was 12, Maxine won gold at the Flycasting World Championships in Estonia. That same year, she outscored Steve Rajeff, modern casting's LeBron James, during a tournament in Kentucky. At the next world championships, in 2018, she repeated her gold. This trio of feats made her arguably the best female fly-caster in the world, all before she got her driver's license. The New York Times called her 'the Mozart of Fly Casting.'" Outside: The World Champ of Fly-Casting Just Wants to Be a Teen.

+ Fallon Sherrock is the first female darts player to beat man at world championship.


Bottom of the News

"The police chief of Burlington, Vermont resigned Monday, four days after admitting that he set up a Twitter account under a fake name and used it to attack a local community activist who criticized him. Hours later, his replacement was fired for targeting the same community activist with a different account on Facebook." CBS: Burlington police chief resigns after anonymously trolling critic; new chief axed hours later for same thing.

+ Watch this maniac eat 10 ghost peppers under a minute to earn a Guinness World Record. (Beats watching impeachment speeches.)

+ And one last photo collection from The Atlantic's Alan Taylor: Photos of the Decade: 2010–19.