Monday, January 6th, 2020


Wag the Don

The path that led to the targeted assassination of Qassim Suleimani began with President Trump's art of tearing up the nuclear deal and has reached a point of mass protests in Tehran, Iranian leaders announcing plans to resume nuclear efforts, Iraq calling for American troops to leave the country, a temporary reduction in US efforts to fight ISIS, and a further destabilized Middle East (yes, it turns out that's possible). Where the path leads from here is anyone's guess (and if the deluge of tweets over the weekend is any indication, just about everyone has a guess). The strike was simultaneously described as intended to deter Iranian attacks and likely to provoke Iranian attacks. Confused? Welcome to 2020. Max Fisher in the NYT: What Is Trump's Iran Strategy? Few Seem to Know.

+ "By pulling out of the Iranian nuclear accord and imposing crippling sanctions on the country, Trump's advisers have wagered that they can bring the regime down. By killing Suleimani, the Administration has taken the fight directly to its leadership." Dexter Filkins (who wrote one of the most in-depth profiles of Suleimani) The New Yorker: The Dangers Posed by the Killing of Qassem Suleimani.

+ During his campaign, Trump famously proclaimed, "I alone can fix it." Well, in this case, he may have to. WaPo: Trump faces Iran crisis with fewer experienced advisers and strained relations with traditional allies. (This is an administration built for coverups, corruption, and idol worship; not war.)

+ After receiving criticism (including from allies) for threatening to bomb Iranian cultural sites, Trump doubled down on the idea: "They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn't work that way."


The Fog of War Stories

"There were too many dead and not enough shovels, so a local politician brought in heavy machinery from a nearby construction site. He dug graves deep enough to fit mothers with children, or children with children. Some were still in their pajamas, their hands inked with henna tattoos from the party preparations the night before ... U.S. military officials publicly touted the August 22, 2008, Azizabad raid – Operation Commando Riot – as a victory. A high-value Taliban target had been killed; the collateral damage was minimal; the village was grateful. None of it was true." USA Today: Inside the U.S. military's raid against its own security guards that left dozens of Afghan children dead. (This story is interesting on its own. But I'm also linking to it here/now as a reminder that much of what we read and hear about military action in the news is only part of the story, and often dead wrong.)


Belt and Road Trip

While 2020 looks like it could be the year of an Iranian/American conflict, the entire century will be more defined by the China v America drive for global leadership. And no one writes about that clash better than the New Yorker's Evan Osnos: The Future of America's Contest with China. "To a degree still difficult for outsiders to absorb, China is preparing to shape the twenty-first century, much as the U.S. shaped the twentieth. Its government is deciding which features of the global status quo to preserve and which to reject, not only in business, culture, and politics but also in such basic values as human rights, free speech, and privacy. In the lead-up to the anniversary, the government demonstrated its capacity for social surveillance."


Bolton Tap

"Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify." John Bolton says he is prepared to testify in Senate trial if subpoenaed. (I'm old enough to remember when one had to testify if subpoenaed.)


Land Down Under Siege

"Thousands of residents were evacuated this week, as bush fires reached the suburban fringes of Sydney, the skies turning blood-red." NPR: Australia Deploys Military Reservists To Combat Wildfire, As Thousands Evacuate.

+ "Australia is caught in a climate spiral. For the past few decades, the arid and affluent country of 25 million has padded out its economy—otherwise dominated by sandy beaches and a bustling service sector—by selling coal to the world." The Atlantic: Australia Will Lose to Climate Change. (Everyone will lose if no one starts fighting...)

+ Crazy photos of the deadly bushfires in Australia.


Lacto Tags

"Tumbling milk consumption combined with the rising price of milk have crippled the dairy industry with debt. Dean Foods, America's largest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy November 12." And now, another one of America's largest dairy companies has followed suit.


Go Fake Yourself

"TikTok parent company ByteDance has built technology to let you insert your face into videos starring someone else." TikTok has secretly built a deepfakes maker. (Over the break, I may have talked to someone who may have been associated with the CIA who told a group of us to get our kids off TikTok.)

+ "Deepfake videos have been around for a while. But if your experience of that word has strong dystopian undertones, we now appear to be in a moment where consumer apps are tapping into the technology in a race for new — fun, lighthearted — features to attract and keep users." Snapchat quietly acquired AI Factory, the company behind its new Cameos feature. (Interesting how companies who want you to share everything do their own things quietly and secretly...)


Globe Trotting

"In 1997, when Ellen's sitcom was at the height of its popularity, I was in my mother's basement lifting weights in front of the mirror thinking, ‘Am I gay?" Kate McKinnon presenting Ellen Ellen DeGeneres with the Carol Burnett Award was the highlight of the Golden Globes. Here are a few other highlights from the evening.

+ A lot of great shows were left out of the nominations, but the winners are all worth watching (and have all been recommended in NextDraft). Fleabag, Chernobyl, and Succession are much-watch shows. Here's a list of all the winners.


Bounty Humpers

"Dalman and Haynes, who are in a relationship and have been bounty hunting for five years, happily volunteer that they think their job is pretty cool. But the realities of how they do their job might deflate the world's 14-year olds and cop aficionados. Nearly every defendant they've processed has come quietly, and Dalman tells me the best tool in his arsenal is to treat each person he apprehends with respect. Together, they spend far more energy researching, travelling, and staking out the residences of their marks than they do during the arrest. Violence is specifically avoided." Vox: The couple who bounty hunts together, stays together. (I might surprise my wife and set up an apprehension for Valentine's Day.)


Bottom of the News

"To be clear, The Washington Post does not endorse illicit drug use. And for most people, Cats is unnerving enough sober." WaPo: People are seeing ‘Cats' while high out of their minds. These are their stories. (People getting high and watching bad movies definitely doesn't qualify as breaking news...)

+ LA Times: By 2030, nearly half of all U.S. adults will be obese. (I knew there was still something that could unite us.)