Wednesday, February 5th, 2020


Optic Thunder

It was another epic battle between Id and Nancy. The president opened with a leg drop, a piledrive, a powerslam, and a boot lace eye-rake. Avoiding the bronco buster, Nancy rebounded off the turnbuckles with a backhand chop and a leaping cactus clothesline, before deploying a triple jump moonsault, a flying heel kick, and a folding chair shot. OK, the State of the Kingdom address wasn't quite as violent as big time wrestling, but it featured just about as much spectacle and reflected the mutual contempt between political parties that's spreading faster than the Coronavirus. It began with Trump refusing to shake Nancy's hand and ended with Nancy going full Jamie Summers on the president's printed remarks. In between, there were chants of four more years (at first I thought people wanted that much time added to Trump's sentence), a Parkland father being handcuffed and removed from the gallery, and Trump awarding the nation's highest honor to Rush Limbaugh, who now shares that honor with Jonas Salk, Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, and Mr. Rogers. Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the First Lady shortly after announcing he was suffering from stage four lung cancer (I won't speak ill of the ill, even though he would). In short, the president baited the speaker into tearing up his remarks, which baited the president into tweeting about that instead of his economic policy, which baited the media into covering the story, which baited me into baiting you to read about the whole mess here. Maybe all this bait is appropriate, because as far as I can tell, political decorum sleeps with the fishes. From The Atlantic: The State of the Union as Spectacle. (Don't worry. This SOTU shall pass.)

+ SOTU-faced: Fortunately, words were secondary during the speech, because many of them were false. WaPo: Fact-checking President Trump's 2020 State of the Union address. (Maybe he should have used SOTU-factor authentication...)


Mitt Does Not Acquit

"My own view is that there's not much I can think of that would be a more egregious assault on our Constitution than trying to corrupt an election to maintain power. And that's what the president did." As the president prepares to ride his White Ford Bronco into the sunset, Mitt Romney split from his party and announced he'll vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge. The move makes Romney the first senator in US history to vote to convict a president from the same party. (Mitt Romney had a million ways to spin his way out of this and avoid the slings and arrows of a rabid party gone mad. But he chose not to. And for that courage, he deserves the earnest praise of Democrats and the eternal gratitude of decent Republicans. We've become divided, jaded and unable to praise those with whom we mostly disagree. But I offer my unreserved, heartfelt praise for Mitt Romney. Today, he sacrificed any chance of becoming president to do the right thing. That's more than most people have ever given up for anything. I thank him.)

+ Here's the latest on the last day of the impeachment trial from CNN. While the trial is ending, the story will go on. Jerry Nadler Says House Will Likely Subpoena John Bolton. And Giuliani Says Trump Should '100%' Investigate Biden After Expected Senate Acquittal.


Wind Chill

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid out his priorities for the year and delivered a sobering view of the state of the world. "Tensions were of course high as the last year ended, but we were moving in the right direction in a number of hotspots. We were seeing signs of de-escalation and some measure of progress. That's all changed. I have spoken recently about winds of hope. But today a wind of madness is sweeping the globe. From Libya to Yemen to Syria and beyond – escalation is back. Arms are flowing and offensives are increasing."


Iowa Chu Talkin’ About Willis

In other political news, the game of Cauc-A-Mole continues. "The Democratic presidential race has shifted to New Hampshire, with the full field of 2020 contenders blanketing the state ahead of its Tuesday primary. But in Iowa, they're still counting." (Even by current standards, this is a caucamamie situation...)


Needle Point

"When a loved one overdoses, it may be easier for family and friends to think of her as prey than to accept the more complex reality of addiction. And for detectives—who, in conventional homicide cases, often work tirelessly to provide "closure" to grieving families—it can be motivating to reimagine a tragic accident as a crime scene, with a victim and a perpetrator. Dennis Cauchon, the president of Harm Reduction Ohio, a nonprofit that opposes overdose-homicide laws, recalls hearing a prosecutor say at a conference, "When parents ask us to do something, it's hard to say no." Paige Williams in The New Yorker: The Wrong Way to Fight the Opioid Crisis. "People struggling with addiction who share a lethal dose of drugs are being prosecuted as killers."


Going Viral

"Hollianne Bruce, the lone epidemiologist assigned to the control of communicable diseases in the county's public health office, jumped into action. Declining to wait for a C.D.C. team to arrive from Atlanta, she dialed up the patient, who had been taken to an isolation unit at a hospital." The excellent Amy Harmon in the NYT: Inside the Race to Contain America's First Coronavirus Case.

+ 'Of Course We're Panicking:' Here's What It's Like Inside Wuhan's Coronavirus Quarantine Zone.

+ And the most 2020 lede of 2020: "A Canadian man who announced he was infected with the new coronavirus during a WestJet flight from Toronto to Jamaica on Monday says he was trying to make a viral video."


Maybe It’s Time to Switch to Decaf

"Caffeine would transform the world around us in ways large and small, magnificent and horrific. It would stimulate and focus the mind in a way that would influence the workplace, politics, social relations and "arguably even the rhythms of English prose," Pollan writes. But the cultivation of, and trade in, coffee and tea plants (and the sugar used in both) would also enslave countless people and lead to the East India Company opening an opium trade with China." WaPo: Caffeine has been a boon for civilization, Michael Pollan says. But it has come at a cost. (I hate to be a total drip about coffee...)


Eleanor Rigby Is Unable to Attend…

"Research suggests that, just as everyone warned me, new parents commonly experience estrangement from their friends. The charity Action for Children, as part of broader research into loneliness, surveyed 2,000 parents. It found that the majority (68 percent) felt "cut off" from friends, colleagues, and family after the birth of a child. Common reasons for this feeling of isolation included lack of money and the inability to leave the house when caring for small children." The Atlantic: What Happens to Your Social Life When You Have a Baby? (It gives you an excuse to avoid any event and it is awesome. The first night my wife and I left a dinner party after only five minutes because our baby was home crying was one of the greatest nights of my life.)


More to Binge

Gizmodo: "There are lots of valid reasons to be worried about how deep learning techniques could potentially be used to manipulate footage for nefarious reasons. But as Denis Shiryaev demonstrates by upscaling some old black and white film footage from 1896, those AI-powered tools can also be a powerful way to bring the past back to life." Amazing.


Bottom of the News

"At certain vital intersections, they installed slightly sinister devices that detect horn noise. When people honked at red lights, which they often do to get other drivers ready to go, the lights stayed red. The police put up a few signs — 'Honk More Wait More' — but clearly not everyone understood what was happening." NYT: Mumbai Police Play a Trick on Honking Drivers.

+ Two people were arrested in with meth and cocaine they carried in a bag labeled 'Bag Full of Drugs.' (Yes, yes. Florida...)