Friday, January 31st, 2020


Lamar a Lago

When it comes to ethics in the Trump era, always bet the under. We could all see the ultimate result coming, the only question was how exactly it would play out. The key twist played out when Lamar Alexander outlined his reasons for not calling for witnesses at the Senate trial: "There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television ... and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine ... But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate." In other words, the verdict is that he's guilty and the sentence is nothing. Somehow I don't think Alexander's take on things will make it into Trump's pep-rally routine: "Yes, I did it. And I should be held accountable. But in the end, no more witnesses were needed…" But it was enough to get other senators over the hump, including Lisa Murkowski whose announced no vote drew cheers in the Senate lunchroom and essentially ended the trial. Another line I'm guessing we won't hear repeated by Trump came from Marco Rubio: "Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office." Uh, ok? If you're confused, you're not alone. If you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention. If you're wondering what comes next, that's simple. There's already been a date set for the appeal trial. It's November 3, 2020. And every American voter is on jury duty.

+ "Donald Trump's stonewalling will succeed where Nixon's failed. Perhaps Alexander has done us all a favor: the trial that wasn't really a trial will be over, and we will no longer have to listen to it. The Senate can stop pretending." Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker: The Senate Can Stop Pretending Now.

+ Glasser sums it up pretty well. But not quite as well as Al Pacino in And Justice For All: "You're out of order. The whole trial is out of order."

+ Meanwhile, the trial in the court of public opinion rages on. Here's the latest Bolton book excerpt from the NYT: Trump told Bolton to help his Ukraine pressure campaign "during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president's impeachment defense." (Speaking of Trump's legal team... AP: Charities steered $65M to Trump lawyer Sekulow and family. You don't need a degree from Trump University to wonder about that...)

+ Before we move on: Adam Schiff, Jim Himes, Jason Crow, Val Demings, Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia, Zoe Lofgren, Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman and the rest of you who stood up and spoke out, I've got just one damn word for you: Thanks.

+ Feeling burned out on political news? It could be worse. Watching TV in Des Moines Right Now Is a Special Kind of Hell. (Tim Murphy on the nine campaign ads he saw while watching 30 minutes of local news.)

+ In other (one could argue related) political news: A New Jersey mayor has admitted to taking off his pants, and passing out drunk during party at an employee's house. (He ultimately put his pants back on, which is more than the Senate will force Trump to do...)


Britain Follows Its Johnson

"More than 3 1/2 years after the landmark Brexit referendum, the United Kingdom will finally leave the European Union at 11 p.m. GMT on Friday. That means Britain will exit the bloc of 27 remaining countries and will begin to forge its own way in the world, but there's a transition period before the U.K. cuts itself off entirely." NPR: What To Know When The U.K. Leaves The EU.

+ Immediately after Brexit, most things will stay the same - at least to start with. Here's the latest from the BBC.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: "Amaryllis Fox's riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite clandestine ops unit of the CIA, hunting the world's most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries while marrying and giving birth to a daughter." This is a thoughtful, humanizing, and very well-written look into the world of spying and diplomacy. And I learned about things in this book that even my friends in government were surprised I knew. (They're usually pretty surprised that I know anything...) I highly recommend: Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA.

+ What to Movie: If you're looking for some reaffirmation that the quest for justice never ends as long as there are people willing to fight for it, then do yourself a favor and see the excellent Just Mercy, a great movie about the heroic efforts of the inspiring Bryan Stevenson (who had to be happy he was played by the buffed and attractive Michael B Jordan. I'm envisioning a biopic about a newsletter writer starring Brad Pitt...)

+ What to Doc: Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust, narrated by Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody, is a documentary featuring Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein and his efforts to restore violins recovered from the Holocaust. (I saw some of these instruments played in SF earlier this month.)


Native Seekers

"Federal studies have shown that in portions of the country with large Native American populations, native women are killed at a rate 10 times higher than the national average." LA Times: Native women are vanishing across the U.S. Inside an aunt's desperate search for her niece.

+ "The women at this particular class come from tribes in Massachusetts, North Dakota and El Salvador. They learn how to recognize threats, how to de-escalate confrontational situations and how to strike an attacker in the groin." NPR: Kidnapping Threat Is Higher For Native Women, So They're Learning Self-Defense.


You’re Not Free To Move About The Country

"The United States issued a rare quarantine order Friday for 195 people evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, calling the illness an "unprecedented public health threat." The evacuees are being held on an air force base in California." The latest on the coronavirus from WaPo.

+ An explainer from the NYT: How Bad Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Get? Here Are 6 Key Factors.


Dead Heads

"The speakers included a psychic medium ('death does not exist') Laura Lynne Jackson, Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurologist who says he died and saw heaven, and Anita Moorjani, who told the audience that cancer could be cured by love." Vice: What Goop Really Offers: Avoiding the Terror of a Certain Death. (Maybe it just confirms that the right mix of content can make death seem like a relief...)


Win One For the Flipper

"A half-dozen members of the team have died from a variety of causes not connected with football, including heart attack and cancer, and another half-dozen or so have reportedly been affected by cognitive impairment. The symptoms in many of those players occurred at a younger age than the general population." Celebrating, and putting into perspective, the only NFL team to make it through a season without losing. NYT: The Perfect '72 Dolphins and Football's Ultimate Toll.


Flag Waiving

"Burning U.S. and Israeli flags is a familiar ritual at state-sponsored rallies in Iran. But in a country that is under U.S. and international sanctions and that bans contact with Israel, finding flags to burn can be a challenge." WaPo: There's a factory in Iran making U.S. and Israeli flags. They're for people to burn. (That doesn't sound carbon neutral to me...)


Lact Aid

"'Our dairy farmers have been going out to the tune of one dairy farm every other week,' said republican delegate Barry Knight, adding that he hoped the legislation will help Virginia's dairy farmers. But what this and similar legislation seem to willfully misunderstand is that no one is buying oat milk because they think they are buying milk." Eater: Virginia Tries to Limit the Legal Definition of Milk. Anyone up for a nice, tall glass filled of "the lacteal secretion of a healthy, hooved mammal?"


Feel Good Friday

"They fold into a deep hug. Then the tears start, silent and punctuated by a few sniffles. These are not the deep weeping tears of grief. They are tears of relief—from knowing that you've done right by someone you love, and from knowing that you've been accepted, or at least forgiven, by the family whose worst day was your best one." A.C. Shilton in Bicycling: Their Son's Heart Saved His Life. So He Rode 1,426 Miles to Meet Them.

+ His dog was saved from a deadly cancer. He bought a $6M Super Bowl ad to thank the vet.

+ Nebraska doctor lets patients pay for surgery by volunteering.

+ Bellevue teacher moved to tears by students pooling money to replace his stolen shoes.

+ WaPo: A 95-year-old woman was swindled out of nearly $18,000. Local towns rallied and got her money back.

+ Hennepin County Sheriff to issue free repair vouchers instead of spendy tickets for faulty car parts.

+ Santa Cruz decriminalizes psychedelic mushrooms. (It wasn't exactly a hotbed of psychedelic-related arrests before this...)