Tuesday, January 21st, 2020


Mock Trial

In entirely unsurprising news, the beginning phases of the impeachment trial have been beset by tribulations. Before we get to the trial itself, the two sides are arguing over what kind of trial it should be. Adam Schiff on Mitch McConnell's resolution to make it quick, uninformative, and a win for Trump: "Why should this trial be different than any other trial? The short answer is it shouldn't." That may be the last short answer we hear as it looks like both sides will get 24 hours over three days for what, if we get witnesses, amounts to opening arguments. While the Senate ruling on Trump still seems headed for an acquittal, there is a larger pool of observers who will also have a say at the ballot box. All of America is on jury duty (and I call being foreman). Here's the latest from WaPo and CNN.

+ Where's My Edward R Murrow?: In the early days of the Russia scandal, President Trump famously asked, "Where's my Roy Cohn?" Indeed, the trial in the Senate has more parallels with McCarthyism than it does with prior impeachment proceedings. McCarthy was an unliked, small-time, near-anonymous politician until he began making unfounded claims about communists working in the State Department. Thus began the meteoric rise of the man and McCarthyism. The big turning point that preceded his even more rapid political demise was precipitated by Edward R. Murrow's television editorial. (See if this line sounds applicable to the current era: "The actions of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies.") Trump heard about McCarthy's rise and fall in great detail from McCarthy's right hand man, Roy Cohn. That's why goal number one of the Trump presidency was (and is) to attack the media. And it's worked. Today, there are hundreds of news anchors and reporters warning of the dangers of Trumpism and calling for a fair trial in the Senate. But there are no Edward R. Murrows because half the country doesn't believe journalists and sees the media as the enemy. McCarthy was ultimately censured, humiliated, and broken after a hearing summed up by Joseph Welch's memorable line, "Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?" One wonders how that line would play in today's America, where it's unclear whether decency is still considered admirable.

+ As I mentioned on Friday, I recommend that you watch the American Experience documentary, McCarthy.

+ Meanwhile, John Roberts looks how we all feel. (In the business, we call these News Curators' Eyes.)


Photo Synthesis

"The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants." Kashmir Hill in the NYT: The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It. (This is an important and concerning story. But ultimately, the greatest threats to our privacy are political ignorance and public apathy, not necessarily in that order.)

+ Reuters: Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained.


Davos Con

With the impeachment trial heating up at home, President Trump has taken his distortions on the road to Davos, where he blasted climate change believers. "We must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortunetellers." (Wait, I thought those were Eric and Don Jr?)

+ Trump is far from the only world leader denying climate change. It's happening even in places where the deniers still smell of smoke and their kids can't leave the house. The New Yorker: When Will Australia's Prime Minister Accept the Reality of the Climate Crisis?

+ NYT: Conservative States Seek Billions to Brace for Disaster. (Just Don't Call It Climate Change.).

+ For those scoring at home, here's the new Bloomberg Data Dash: A Live Climate Scoreboard.


The Spree Musketeers

"While authorities only let those without guns inside the Capitol to protest, many armed protesters, including militia, packed the streets outside the Capitol grounds." Buzzfeed: Thousands Of People Showed Up In Richmond For A Peaceful Pro-Gun Rally Officials Feared Would Be Violent.

+ InFocus: Photos From the Pro-gun Rally in Virginia (including one of Infowars host Alex Jones riding in an armored vehicle, which, obviously, was just what the Founding Fathers envisioned).


Old School Document Hacking

"The Mossad agents moving in on a warehouse in a drab commercial district of Tehran knew exactly how much time they had to disable the alarms, break through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and get out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials: six hours and 29 minutes." The NYT with a very interesting look at the documents behind the belief that Iran was still working on nuclear weapons. How Israel, in Dark of Night, Torched Its Way to Iran's Nuclear Secrets.

+ NBC: Influential Iranians break ranks with state after Ukrainian jet downing. "'Apologies for lying to you for 13 years,' Gelareh Jabbari, a host on the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting TV network, wrote last Monday in an Instagram post." (Before we move on, Fox anchors, do any of you have anything you'd like to say?)


Flight Walkers

"The departure of the caminantes, or walkers, began slowly in 2017 with young men hoping to find jobs and send money home. Now women and children, the sick and the elderly also are taking their chances, expanding an exodus that already is one of the biggest mass migrations in modern history. Each day an estimated 5,000 people flee." The LA Times traveled along with some of them. Blankets, canned tuna and faith in God — how fleeing Venezuelans survive.

+ AP: 100s in river ‘no-man's land' after Mexico troops block way.

+ Tired of sad immigrant stories? Then join me in Canada for this uplifting and amazing thread. "Something amazing just happened, and it didn't make a single headline." (It might now...)


Corona Effect

"Just three weeks ago, China announced the outbreak of a mysterious new virus in the city of Wuhan involving a cluster of people who'd been exposed to animals at a local food market. Flash-forward to Tuesday: the number of cases has leaped to nearly 300 and there are sick people in at least five other countries, including the first case of 2019-nCoV, as the virus is known, in the United States." Vox: A SARS-like virus is spreading quickly. Here's what you need to know.

+ In a huge healthcare/political win for Republicans, the Supreme Court showdown over Obamacare will be delayed until after the election.


Sweet Home Panorama

"I had a vision recently: I'm at a little market buying cream soda and Ding Dongs. Bathed in luscious, late-afternoon amber light, I head out to the levee and perch on some rocks. Seagulls soar overhead. Somewhere in the distance, a Camaro blasts 'Frampton Comes Alive.' I start in on my junk food, and then ... nothing happens. Ever." It turns out there's a decent chance I was right there with Carolyn Jones, since we grew up in the same town, and on occasion, made mud pies together. But this article is about more than that. Ode to San Rafael: my unremarkable hometown.

+ And another one that hits (a little too) close to my childhood home. "A sign with 'racist undertones' discovered last month at an East San Rafael elementary school has prompted the district's superintendent to take a stand for student equity and inclusiveness. Jim Hogeboom, superintendent of San Rafael City Schools, said a large sheet of paper with the message 'Got English?' was placed over the marquee at San Pedro Elementary School." (It's everywhere.)


A Final Note

"David was playing a song when he paused, said 'I'm sorry' and put his chin to his chest. He never dropped his guitar or fell of his stool. It was as easy and gentle as he was." Variety: Singer David Olney Dies During Performance at Florida's 30A Festival.


Bottom of the News

"Sailors usually lobbed grenades in this manner, but when they weren't under direct threat—which was most of the time—they loaded the gun with less-lethal ammunition, like potatoes. When Winston Churchill observed a demonstration and someone forgot the grenades, operators used beer bottles instead." An Explosive History of the T-Shirt Cannon.

+ 16 Facts About Squirrels for Squirrel Appreciation Day. (And the great Sarah Silverman on squirrels...)

+ A dentist was filmed extracting a tooth while on a hoverboard. He was found guilty on 46 counts. (After sentencing, he's gonna find himself on the other end of a cavity search.)