Friday, January 17th, 2020


The Injustice League

President Trump has assembled a legal team to present his defense during the Senate impeachment trial, and it's a Who's Who of WTF. The team now includes two familiar names: Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz. (All they need now are The Joker and The Riddler. I would have included a Catwoman joke here, but Trump tried to grab her p... oh forget it.) It's a reunion of sorts for the dynamic duo, who both worked to enable Jeffrey Epstein to keep on keepin' on. Dershowitz has of course successfully represented many other defendants including Claus von Bülow and OJ Simpson (who is currently looking for the real killers of the Ukrainian military aid); and Starr, who in addition to leading the Clinton impeachment, was ousted from Baylor following during a sexual assault coverup scandal in 2016. Trump once said of his new lawyer: "Starr's a freak. I bet he's got something in his closet." If he didn't then, he will by the time this trial is over. Perhaps the latest twist in this saga was best summed up by Monica Lewinsky: "this is definitely an 'are you f--king kidding me?' kinda day." (Yeah, kinda like all of the last thousand days or so...) If you can take it, here's the latest on the impeachment from WaPo.

+ "You're a bunch of dopes and babies." Inside Trump's stunning tirade against generals (an excerpt from the upcoming book: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America.) It's taken us a few years to assess just how bad Trump's first days in office were. I'm guessing that the final accounting of his tenure will have more pages than his inauguration had attendees (which at last count, was a billion or so...)

+ WaPo: "More than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country. Nine in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall." (Even "My African American" has dropped Trump.)


Up The Nihilism Without a Paddle

"We're in an age of manufactured nihilism. The issue for many people isn't exactly a denial of truth as such. It's more a growing weariness over the process of finding the truth at all. And that weariness leads more and more people to abandon the idea that the truth is knowable. I call this 'manufactured' because it's the consequence of a deliberate strategy. It was distilled almost perfectly by Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News and chief strategist for Donald Trump. "The Democrats don't matter," Bannon reportedly said in 2018. "The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit ... Bannon articulated the zone-flooding philosophy well, but he did not invent it. In our time, it was pioneered by Vladimir Putin in post-Soviet Russia. Putin uses the media to engineer a fog of disinformation, producing just enough distrust to ensure that the public can never mobilize around a coherent narrative." A particularly timely piece: How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy.


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: You've got to watch McCarthy, an American Experience documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator whose zealous anti-communist crusade would test the limits of American decency and democracy. (If you want to understand today's political strategies, the acquiescence of party members, and why attacking the media was Trump's first and most imperative goal, you'll find all the answers right here.)

+ What to Watch: The Outsider on HBO gets into your head and stays there. Jason Bateman is excellent and Ben Mendelson is one of the best actors working today.

+ What to Jones For: "I'm loving my life right now, but you know what I've noticed lately? Who hasn't been having fun? The f--king 20 year-olds." And from there, it only gets better. Leslie Jones' Netflix standup special is exactly what you need this weekend.


Developing One’s Snow Balls

"By entering the storefront two hours earlier, by taking an avalanche-safety course, we had statistically increased our chances of being killed in an avalanche. We were more likely to die now than we were at 8 a.m.
The room absorbed this information. It felt like being in a movie in which you thought you were at a normal dinner party, but just by showing up, you'd implicitly agreed to fight the other guests to the death. The problem — the primary human problem — is that people are susceptible, prideful, bullheaded, egotistic, dumbstruck and lazy. Add to this doomed slurry a little avalanche training (or what used to qualify as avalanche training, and its focus on analyzing snowpack), and people make terrible decisions with greater frequency and confidence." The most-excellent Heidi Julavits in the NYT Mag: What I Learned in Avalanche School. (Read this. Trust me. It's perfectly safe.)


It’s All About the Base

GQ: Neo-Nazis with 1,500 Ammo Rounds Were Heading to a Pro-Gun Rally, Until the FBI Intervened. "The three men are reportedly members of the Base, an international neo-Nazi organization that, according to the Associated Press, discussed in encrypted chat rooms 'committing acts of violence against blacks and Jews, ways to make improvised explosive devices, their military-style training camps and their desire to create a white 'ethno-state.'" In the words of my ancestors, "May the Lord put you pathetic losers in the prison cellblock you most want to avoid." (It was something like that, I'm translating from the Yiddish.)

+ "He sat beneath a framed picture of Bolsonaro, and orchestral strings played lightly in the background. The music is from an opera by Richard Wagner." AP: Brazilian culture secretary Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after using phrases similar to some used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. (There's still a line that leaders can't cross. But that line is moving in the wrong direction.)


Class Pass

"After two years of court proceedings, Andrew found himself sitting in an austere conference room in Duluth, Minnesota, with a dozen other men, most convicted of similar crimes. In the United States, domestic abusers are rarely sent to prison. More often, as in Andrew's case, they are sent to a special class designed to teach them to refrain from physical violence." Matthew Wolfe in The Atlantic: Can You Cure a Domestic Abuser?

+ Meanwhile, on the other end of the criminal justice spectrum: The Mississippi Supreme Court's confirmed a 12-year prison sentence for an African American man who carried his mobile phone into a county jail cell.


The Unnatural

"It started with a discussion about whether the player who helped expose the game's biggest cheating scandal in a century was a whistleblower or a narc, moved on to the firing of a manager who hadn't even managed a game, degenerated into anonymous Twitter accounts lobbing entirely uncorroborated accusations of even worse cheating, giddily grew into a miasma of conspiratorial, frame-by-frame breakdowns of jerseys and lip-reading and confetti. It was a beautiful, ugly, transfixing, maddening, godforsaken mess, simultaneously addictive and repulsive. For one day, baseball felt like a real modern sport, full of verve, and not one stuck in the morass of its past." ESPN's Jeff Passan with the latest, and weirdest, on the sign stealing scandal: Buzzers, burner accounts and conspiracies: Inside baseball's day of epic chaos. As they say, "Playing baseball for a living is like having a license to steal." Actually, Pete Rose said that... (Editor's note: Pitchers and Catchers report on Feb 14!)


The Bee’s Kneecapping

"Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America's reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature's most delicate natural processes." The Guardian: The deadly truth behind your almond milk obsession. (Wait, I thought we moved on to an oat milk obsession?)


Lego Brick Shot

WaPo: "Lego, the world's largest and most profitable toymaker, is zeroing in on a growing demographic: stressed-out adults. The 87-year-old Danish company increasingly bills its brightly colored bricks as a way to drown out the noise of the day and perhaps achieve a measure of mindfulness." (My last interaction with a Lego was stepping on one when my kids were young. I've never been so mindful...)


Feel Good Friday

"She is a former softball standout at first base for Sacramento State who joined the club in 2014 as an intern in baseball operations." Giants make Alyssa Nakken first female coach in MLB history.

+ Incredible, secret firefighting mission saves Australia' famous dinosaur trees.

+ A 6-year-old is making clay koalas to raise money for the Australian fires. He's raised over $100,000.

+ So many people are helping raise money to fight the impact of Australia's fires. Let's join the club. Join me in making a donation to the RSPCA: Their efforts include the rescue and treatment of the animals most affected by the fires.

+ A machine can now keep livers alive outside the body for a week. (Perfect, that's just long enough to fully enjoy Mardi Gras.)

+ Microsoft to erase its carbon footprint, past and future. (Now if they could just erase IE6 from our collective memory...)

+ A Scarsdale teen discovered new planet while interning at NASA. (The only thing I discovered as a teen were my genitals.)

+ UK pub numbers rise for the first time in a decade. (At least Brexit had one positive effect.)

+ And let's go out on a sure-thing feel good item: George Lucas Holding Baby Yoda. ("Dirty my diaper is.")