Friday, January 24th, 2020



As we conclude this historic week in America, I yield the remainder of my time to Adam Schiff and his closing remarks from Thursday's edition of the Senate impeachment trial. "Colonel Vindman said, 'Here, right matters.' ... Well, let me tell you something, if right doesn't matter, if right doesn't matter, it doesn't matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn't matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn't matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn't matter how well written the Oath of Impartiality is. If right doesn't matter, we're lost. If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost. The framers couldn't protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don't matter ... No constitution can protect us, if right doesn't matter anymore."

+ Speaking of being lost, at the moment Schiff was delivering these remarks, Fox News was pushing the very conspiracy theories that led to this mess. While some of us are seeing the House Managers build the case against the president, others are seeing exactly what Trump wanted in the first place: A never-ending drumbeat of news connecting Biden to some invented Ukrainian plot. That might not sound like much. But last time around, all Trump had was a story about an email server. And the Senators who are supposed to defend the truth and protect us from such misinformation? Here's Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee: "How patriotic is it to badmouth and ridicule our great nation in front of Russia, America's greatest enemy?" She's talking about Trump, right? Nope. Her tweet was about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And the president retweeted it.

+ Remember how the president says he doesn't know Lev Parnas and that Parnas is making everything up? Well, lordy, there are tapes.

+ Meanwhile, the president keeps on keepin' on. "Under cover of the fog of impeachment, in large ways and small, other lawbreaking, other refusals of oversight, and other overt criming keeps on happening. What other bad acts has this president and members of this administration undertaken this month alone?" Let Dahlia Lithwick count the ways: Trump Is Not Shamed. And, for a reality check, neither are his supporters. WaPo: Americans still divided on Trump's removal from office, but a strong economy is boosting his approval rating.


China Digs In

"On the outskirts of Wuhan, diggers and bulldozers have begun work to build a new 1,000-bed hospital, which is due to open within days." No, that's not a typo. Diggers to digs in days. (In America, it takes six weeks to get a permit to re-hang a shingle.) As at least thirty million people are under travel restrictions, The Guardian takes a look at life under lockdown in China: hospital queues and empty streets. Here's the latest on the Coronavirus from CNN.


Weekend Whats

As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, let's focus on some related content...

+ What to Remember: "My life has been one of extremes. I've known luxury but also have had to scrounge for potatoes to keep from starving. Much happiness has come my way and yet nothing can make up for what I lost. And for all my daring and independence, I'm actually quite shy. I have even been of two minds about telling story; most of the time, I've wanted to keep it locked inside me." I can attest to that fact. But fortunately, my dad decided to unlock this story, as it's inspired many and been taught in colleges. As a teen, he crawled on his hands and knees into the Polish forest. And that was just the beginning. Taking Risks: A Jewish Youth in the Soviet Partisans and His Unlikely Life in California.

+ What to Book: How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley is a short, insightful look at how authoritarians use language and media to inflame the politics of us vs them. It's also the most accurate description of the kind of media strategies we see being deployed today. Take ibuprofen before reading this as you'll be nodding in agreement so much your neck will get sore. (And that time I gave Stanley's book to my dad...)

+ What to Read: This is a piece I wrote that's related to my parents' background, Jason Stanley's work, and even Adam Schiff and today's top news. On Human Scum
…and when enough is enough

+ What to Book(s): "Witold Pilecki volunteered for an audacious mission: assume a fake identity, intentionally get captured and sent to the new camp, and then report back to the underground on what had happened to his compatriots there. But gathering information was not his only task: he was to execute an attack from inside—where the Germans would least expect it. The name of the camp was Auschwitz." The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz. Plus, David Benioff is best known for co-creating the TV version of Game of Thrones. But his best thing could be his novel, City of Thieves. And one of my favorite historical novels about this period: HHHH by Laurent Binet.

+ What to Watch: And we'll continue with the Jewish theme, but lighten things up a bit, with a reminder that Curb Your Enthusiasm is back in HBO; and the season got off to predictably excellent start with Larry David (Jewish), Jeff Garlin (Jewish), Richard Lewis (Jewish), and the unrivaled JB Smoove (funny enough to be Jewish).


A New Dawn

"All of us here today understand an eternal truth — every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life." WaPo: Trump headlines annual March for Life rally in Washington.

+ Trump administration threatens funds to California over requirement that health plans cover abortion.


Facial Wreck Cognition

"From iPhones and Snapchat filters to airport check-ins and smart doorbells, facial recognition has entered into our everyday, as has the anxiety surrounding it. One in two American adults is in a law-enforcement facial-recognition database, often without his or her knowledge, while only a handful of cities regulate how the technology is used. And consumers are willingly opting in, even as they question the technology." A very informative report on a very hot button issue. California Sunday Magazine: Facial Recognition: The controversial and nearly ever-present technology that could replace the fingerprint.

+ "Sixty years ago, a sharecropper's son invented a technology to identify faces. Then the record of his role all but vanished. Who was Woody Bledsoe, and who was he working for?" Wired: The Secret History of Facial Recognition.

+ BBC: The Metropolitan Police has announced it will use live facial recognition cameras operationally for the first time on London streets.


Encore Exercises

"The full story of the FBI's investigation into Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks has remained largely untold. Even the code name of the case — Operation Encore — has never been published before. This account is based on interviews with more than 50 current and former investigators, intelligence officials and witnesses in the case. It also draws on some previously secret documents as well as on the voluminous public files of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission." NYT Mag and ProPublica: Operation Encore and the Saudi Connection: A Secret History of the 9/11 Investigation.


A Wretch Like Me?

"Please imagine, for a moment, that you are a juror in a case of alleged burglary. A woman on the witness stand points to the defendant and says he barged into her apartment, shoved her to the ground and, while she begged him to stop, made off with her TV.
Imagine if this was the defense attorney's cross-examination: But what were you wearing that night your TV disappeared? Are you sure you didn't say something that would make the defendant believe you wanted him to take the TV? Hey, didn't you once have a dispute with a landlord?" Monica Hesse in WaPo: Harvey Weinstein's defense strategy is wretched.

+ "What the opening statements in the Weinstein trial demonstrated is something that started becoming clear a long time ago, in the first few months after Sciorra and Asia Argento and others described what Weinstein had allegedly done to them. The most effective way of undermining the MeToo movement is to pretend that it has already won." Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker: The Opening Statements in the Harvey Weinstein Trial and the Undermining of MeToo.


Swarm Storm and the New Norm

If you have the feeling that proportions are getting a bit biblical these days, you may be right. The latest: Unprecedented Swarms of Locusts Are Devouring Crops and Slamming Into Planes in East Africa. Interestingly, in the book of Exodus, the locusts come right after a thunderstorm of hail and fire. (I'm pretty sure the next plague will be Jim Jordan addressing the Senate Impeachment trial)

+ Billions of locusts swarm through Kenya - in pictures.


And Their Eyes Were Watching Pod

"From September to December of last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that it had recovered 2,194 items dropped through subway grates — 1,220 of them earbuds or AirPods." NYT: My AirPods Fell Through a Subway Grate. Here's How I Got Them Back. (It turns out it's easier to find your missing AirPod beneath a New York subway station than it is to find your AppleTV remote under your couch cushion.)


Feel Good Friday

Scott worked closely with people at her local homeless shelter, trying to figure out where the biggest needs are, and how she could fix them. Five months later, Scott designed a fully insulated, waterproof jacket that can convert into a weather-resistant sleeping bag and knapsack." She Creates Coats That Turn Into Sleeping Bags – And Hires Homeless To Make Them.

+ Islamic leaders make ‘groundbreaking' visit to Auschwitz.

+ Goldman to Refuse IPOs If All Directors Are White, Straight Men.

+ A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers, say scientists.

+ "Please note that we only addressed those who are living at or below poverty — people who should not have to worry about the cost of health care anyway." St. Louis churches buy up $12.9 million in medical debt, then give it away.

+ Utah bans conversion therapy for LGBTQ children.

+ Brewery puts local shelter dogs on beer cans to help them get adopted.

+ Hundreds of people turn up to farewell terminally-ill dog on final walk.