Wednesday, January 15th, 2020


It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

You can observe a lot by watching. On a day when Nancy Pelosi selected a team of seven managers -- led by Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler -- to prosecute the case against Donald Trump in the Senate, we'll intersperse today's lead with some applicable quotes from another famous manager, Yogi Berra. It's been a month (or a decade in Trump news time) since the House wrapped up its impeachment hearings and today, the articles will finally be walked over to the Senate for a "trial" that will begin sometime next week. (A note to those doing the walking: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.) Today's divisive remarks from the House floor and the White House maintained a current trend: It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much. While it ain't over til it's over, it sure looks unlikely that the Senate will hold a full and fair trial, and without that, America's future ain't what it used to be. One side will be offering the facts in the case, the other side will be attacking that side for bringing the impeachment in the first place, and half of America will believe the defendant when he finds creative, new ways to claim, I never said most of the things I said. I could go on, but I need to wrap this up since I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four. Here's the latest from WaPo and CNN.

+ When the Lev P Breaks: Even as the articles get transferred, the evidence keeps coming in (and keeps getting weirder). "Rudy Giuliani's fixer, Lev Parnas, turned over documents. They're very ugly." Vox: The stunning new texts, documents, and impeachment evidence released by the House, explained.

+ LevMo: "The cache of materials released by House investigators late Tuesday exposed a number of previously unknown details about efforts by Giuliani and his associates to obtain material in Ukraine that would undermine Trump's Democratic opponents. Their emergence on the eve of the Senate impeachment trial spurred Democrats to renew calls for the White House to turn over documents related to the Ukraine pressure campaign that it has refused to share with Congress." WaPo: Ukraine prosecutor offered information related to Biden in exchange for ambassador's ouster.


It’s Just a Phase

"The deal commits China to do more to crack down on the theft of American technology and corporate secrets by its companies and state entities, while outlining a $200 billion spending spree to try to close its trade imbalance with the U.S. It also binds Beijing to avoiding currency manipulation to gain an advantage and includes an enforcement system to ensure promises are kept ... The deal, sealed on the same day the House prepared to refer articles of Trump's impeachment to the Senate, has already been criticized for what is missing." Bloomberg: U.S. and China Sign Phase One of Trade Deal. (Ultimately, any trade deal with China must be measured against the TPP that Trump pulled out of when he took office.)


Persian Gulf

"The protests have been a stunning contrast to the emotional outpouring by millions of demonstrators, just a week ago, at memorials for General Qassem Suleimani ... The back-to-back outpourings are not a contradiction. Iranians are passionately proud of their country—which dates back millennia, before Persia's seventh-century conversion to Islam or the 1979 Iranian Revolution—whether or not they like their leaders or political system ... But the shooting down of the Ukrainian flight, further defaming Iran's already deeply tarnished image, also struck a nationalist nerve." Robin Wright in The New Yorker: The Anger and Anguish Fuelling Iran's Protests.


Traffic Conditions Worsen

"New evidence shows Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused and trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private Caribbean island, some as recently as 2018 ... [he] was bringing girls as young as 11 and 12 to his secluded estate in the Virgin Islands, known as Little Saint James, and kept a computerized database to track the availability and movements of women and girls, the lawsuit said." NYT: Lawsuit Claims Epstein Trafficked Girls in Caribbean Until 2018. (The more we learn, the worse this story gets. And sadly, we've just scratched the surface.)



When tech companies were up and coming and out to change the world for the better, seeing the small guys disrupt the entrenched giants was a core value in Silicon Valley. Now that some of those nimble startups have grown into the most valuable companies in the world, disruption seems to have fallen out of favor. The Atlantic: Silicon Valley Abandons the Culture That Made It the Envy of the World. (We didn't abandon it. We just fired it because it got too old.)

+ Slate: Which tech companies are really doing the most harm? Here are the 30 most dangerous, ranked by the people who know.

+ Buzzfeed: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Came To India To Invest A Billion Dollars. Traditional Retailers Shouted At Him To Go Back Home. (And they didn't even offer free shipping.)


Rub Some Index On It

Size doesn't only matter in tech. We're seeing the same bloated superpowers in the finance realm. "As investors pile into index funds, BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street have become the leading shareholders in many public companies. With combined ownership ranging from 35.5% at Host Hotels & Resorts to 6.1% at Las Vegas Sands, on average the Big Three own 22% of the typical S&P 500 company." Bloomberg: The Hidden Dangers of the Great Index Fund Takeover.


Connectivity Sleeps with the Fishes

"It's popular to think of the internet as a cloud, but it's really under the sea. A lattice of massive cables crisscrosses the world, seeding connectivity to every continent and into each country. The cables naturally suffer breaks and cuts given those harsh conditions, but usually multiple cables serve each area to create redundancies and contingencies for when one line goes down. As Yemen's ongoing connectivity issues underscore, though, the fallback options for some regions are more tenuous." Wired: Cut Undersea Cable Plunges Yemen Into Days-Long Internet Outage.

+ CNBC: Government-led internet shutdowns cost the global economy $8 billion in 2019. (And that doesn't even count the weekend we took my daughter's iPad away...)


Booze Cruise

"Some groups oppose marijuana (by many measures a much safer drug than alcohol), guns, porn, junk food, and virtually every other vice. Still, the main U.S. organizations I could track down that are by any definition anti-alcohol are Mothers Against Drunk Driving—which mainly focuses on just that—and a small nonprofit in California called Alcohol Justice. In a country where there is an interest group for everything, one of the biggest public-health threats is largely allowed a free pass. And there are deep historical and commercial reasons why." Olga Khazan in The Atlantic: Whatever happened to the anti-alcohol movement? (Maybe people are just too stoned to care?)


Bird Droppings

"All told, glass buildings are responsible for up to one billion bird deaths in the United States each year. At a time when two-thirds of North American birds are in danger of extinction from climate change, it's no exaggeration to say that glass architecture is a threat to life on Earth." The New Republic: A Clear Menace.


Bottom of the News

"For the past week or so, my grandmother wasn't the only one who made sure to tune in when the trivia show started its broadcast. Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, which pitted the show's three most famous competitors against each other in a multinight, prime-time matchup that would award the winner a million-dollar prize, was wildly popular, drawing over 15 million viewers a night, about a 50 percent jump from the show's usual audience. The tournament also managed to outdo some of the biggest non-football games in American sports. Revenge of the nerds, indeed." The Ringer: This Man Just Won the First-Ever ‘Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time' Tournament: Who is Ken Jennings?

+ Independence Day: This week, Bruce Springsteen showed up for his son's swearing-in as a firefighter. Sam Springsteen's career choice may have been motivated by his father's lyrics, some of which, upon reflection, seem like a cry for help: I walk streets of fire. Cause when we kiss, ooh, fire. You can't start a fire without a spark. Senorita, come sit by my fire. Out by the gas fires of the refinery. I'm caught in a crossfire. Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe. Outside the street's on fire in a real death waltz, and perhaps most notably, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, I'm on fire. (Whenever I'm on fire, I always go down to the river and into the river I dive. Funny that Bruce never thought of that...)