January 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Dersh's jaw dropper, your extra six weeks, and you might finally get that Hummer you've always wanted.

“If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” Stop. Read that argument made by Alan Dershowitz in front of the Senate and the Supreme Court Chief Justice a few times; not just because it’s pathetically sad, dangerously wrong, and one of the more jaw-droppingly embarrassing moments in the history of American jurisprudence, but because it marks a new ridiculous low when many assumed the bottom had been reached—and because it still has a good chance of being part of a whitewash that will result in a trial without witnesses (even those witnesses screaming from the sidelines). The New Yorker: Alan Dershowitz for the Defense: L’État, C’est Trump. (L’État, C’est F–ked…)

+ As the legal world snapped back, Dersh Vader went full Fox News and blamed the media: “They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything. I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.” (The exact words you all heard and saw me say were not at all what I said. Still wondering why Trump and Dersh get along?)

+ Dershowitz went to Yale and teaches at Harvard. Maybe this is all part of a Trump plot, because even I hate elites now. Aside from the Constitution and the rule of law, the other big casualties of Dersh’s argument are those who have taken his courses at Harvard, particularly: Ethics and Tactics in Criminal Law. (Alan Dershowitz teaching a course on ethics is like me teaching a course on keeping one’s opinions to oneself.)

+ Meanwhile, the Q and A period continues on the floor of the Senate. The Chief Justice refused to read a question, Schiff called the Trump team’s arguments, “a descent into constitutional madness,” and Rand Paul and others want the name of the whistleblower read aloud (because that’s the only thing that could make this sham even shammier.) Here’s the latest from CNN and WaPo.

+ And, a totally unrelated aside that I just thought might be of interest: The Obituaries of Republicans Who Opposed Nixon’s Impeachment.


You’ve Got Six Weeks

NPR: “For the first time since 2014, death rates in the U.S. declined and life expectancy showed a modest uptick, according to new data released in two reports Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Life expectancy at birth in 2018 was 78.7 years, 0.1 year longer than the previous year.” (That’s about six weeks, or approximately how much time you’ve spent watching impeachment hearings…) NPR: Life Expectancy Rose Slightly In 2018, As Drug Overdose Deaths Fell.

+ “A pop-up would appear, asking about a patient’s level of pain. Then, a drop-down menu would list treatments ranging from a referral to a pain specialist to a prescription for an opioid painkiller.” Bloomberg: Health-Records Company Pushed Opioids to Doctors in Secret Deal With Drugmaker. (When a scourge is so bad that it reverses life expectancy trends, there’s gonna be plenty of blame to go around…)


Pande-mic Check

The latest numbers on the coronavirus: 170 people dead, 8,100 cases have been confirmed across every region of mainland China, 7,000 people are being held on a cruise ship in Italy as a couple is tested for the virus, more than 100 confirmed cases in 20 places outside of China, and more than 60,000,000 people are under full or partial lockdown in China. Plus, WHO has declared a public health emergency. Here’s the latest from CNN.

+ “The novel coronavirus that’s sickening thousands globally — and at least five people in the US — is inspiring countries to close their borders and Americans to buy up surgical masks quicker than major retailers can restock them. There’s another virus that has infected 15 million Americans across the country and killed more than 8,200 people this season alone. It’s not a new pandemic — it’s influenza.”


A Friend of Mines

“Obama declined to ban them outright. The reason, Berschinski said, was that the Pentagon felt there were still reasons to use landmines on the Korean Peninsula, mainly to thwart a potential North Korean invasion. But under Trump’s new policy, the US military can now use landmines anywhere, including in ‘future potential conflicts,’ according to the cable.” Vox: State Department cable reveals new Trump policy expanding landmine use.


Thwait, Thwait, Don’t Tell Me

“Thwaites Glacier is a scientific twofer. It is important, first, because it is huge. It contains enough fresh water to raise global sea levels by more than a foot and a half, and it braces the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which could raise sea levels by almost 10 feet if it pooled away. But Thwaites is also important because it is physically mysterious. In its enormous size and ominous future rest the answers to some of the biggest unresolved questions in climate science.” The Atlantic: The New Video of One of the Scariest Places on Earth.

+ BBC: Climate change and the journey to the doomsday glacier.


Remain Event

“The administration has heralded those changes as a victory for border security, touting reduced numbers of arriving migrants, while people who work with asylum seekers have watched with horror, worried that the potential for protection in the U.S. has disappeared for thousands of people.” LA Times: ‘Remain in Mexico’ one year later: How a single policy transformed the U.S. asylum system.


Head Games

“I don’t know if the bumper-sticker people actually care. What I know is that if you show most people an invisible wound, you’ll get invisible compassion. Wear earplugs all the time, and even your close friends will just blow it off. Go blind from an eye migraine for a few hours and see how much sympathy that gets. If people can’t see your injury, they can’t really see you. Empathy requires stimulus, and in the average person’s perspective, anybody can just ‘fake’ post-traumatic stress or a TBI. This, of course, presumes the average person is capable of empathy.” Bryan Box in TNR on soldiers who come home with invisible injuries, and more generally, on people in pain: The Lies We Tell About Soldiers’ Traumatic Brain Injuries.


Mitten Chops

“After 48 days and more than 760 miles alone across Antarctica, the daily ache of my hands—cracked with cold, gripping my ski poles 12 hours a day—had become like a drumbeat, forming the rhythm of my existence. And that night, the ache got to me. As I pulled my sled into a blizzard of cold and white—my jacket thermometer read 30 below Celsius, with blasting gusts of wind that made the windchill at least 50 below—I started picturing how intensely pleasurable it would feel to get out of my mittens.” Outside: This Arctic Explorer Was One Tent Pole Away from Death.


Dirt Road Rage

“In a statement Wednesday, Flatiron Books president and publisher Bob Miller acknowledged the controversy surrounding the novel and its author, Jeanine Cummins, and said they decided to cancel the tour because of ‘specific threats,’ including that of physical violence, that have been made against her.” The American Dirt book tour has been canceled due to safety concerns as critics lash out. (Can’t a novel just suck anymore?)


Bottom of the News

“GM gave only a few details about the truck, which will be unveiled officially on May 20. It will have a huge battery to generate the equivalent of 1,000 horsepower, and will be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds.” Hummer is making a comeback, but this time it’s electric. (At long last you can simultaneously be earth positive and drive a car named after a blow job.)

+ A Collection of 40 Bad Christian Album Covers With Unfortunate Titles. (If you need a laugh after a long day of frustrating news, this will do the trick.)

+ A portion of the US border wall in California fell over in high winds and lands on Mexican side. (And Mexico is gonna pay for the repairs!)

+ Guy in court for drug possession lights up a joint while talking to the judge.

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