Wednesday, February 12th, 2020


The Billy Club

In 2018, Donald Trump famously asked, "Where's my Roy Cohn?" In 2020, he has something far more powerful and far more dangerous at his disposal. He has his Bill Barr. And his Bill Barr is acting more like Donald Trump's personal attorney than the Attorney General (while Trump's actual personal attorney is acting more like one of the evil masterminds you'd expect to see being chased by Inspector Clouseau in a Pink Panther movie). It's been a week since the impeachment trial acquittal and the wheels are already coming off vital American institutions. Barr brazenly interceded in the sentencing recommendations for Roger Stone, a move that drove four prosecutors to remove themselves from the case or resign altogether. It's been common during the Trump era to see good people leave and terrible people take over. But trading four honest, decent prosecutors for Roger Effing Stone? Break glass. Pull the lever. Sound the alarm. Do whatever you do in case of an emergency, because the wanton politicization of the Justice Department is a full on crisis. And we're just getting warmed up. This Is What an Unleashed Trump Looks Like.

+ Let this line from the NYT story on the Stone resignations sink in. "Prosecutors were even more upset because they were told that they would be reversed only after Fox News had reported it late Tuesday morning."

+ The Stone fiasco is not the only case making legal experts want to Barr-f. NBC News: "The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from the job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump." (Either you join The Billy Club or you get hit by one...)

+ The justice by tweet continued on Wednesday. "As the fallout from the controversy surrounding Roger Stone's prison term continued Tuesday night, President Trump defended his longtime confidant by firing off a barrage of heated tweets attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case." WaPo: Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone.

+ "More axes are sure to fall. A senior Pentagon official appears in danger of losing her nomination to a top Defense Department post after questioning the president's suspension of aid to Ukraine. Likewise, a prosecutor involved in Mr. Stone's case has lost a nomination to a senior Treasury Department position. A key National Security Council official is said by colleagues to face dismissal. And the last of dozens of career officials being transferred out of the White House may be gone by the end of the week." NYT: Trump's War Against ‘the Deep State' Enters a New Stage. (And the old stage was already really bad.)

+ Meanwhile, the thug in chief shares his commentary: Trump says the 4 prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case should "go back to school and learn." (We all should go back to school and learn ... how to stand up against the rise of authoritarianism.) Here's the latest from CNN.

+ "Hi, I'd like to report a crime in progress!" OK, sir. Where is the crime taking place? "Uh, well, here's the thing…"


Con Ed

"I spent nine years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. I served as an aircraft commander, led combat reconnaissance crews, and taught naval history. But the first thing I did upon joining the military, the act that solemnized my obligation, was swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution. How strange, then, that despite all of my training, the millions of taxpayer dollars devoted to teaching me how to fly, lead, and teach, not once did I receive meaningful instruction on the document to which I had pledged my life." Ken Harbaugh: The U.S. Military Is Not Ready for a Constitutional Crisis. (None of us are...)


The Clan Who Knew Too Much

Germs aren't the only thing spreading around China and the world at a breakneck pace. MIT Tech Review: "The World Health Organization dubbed the new coronavirus 'a massive infodemic,' referring to 'an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.'" (Sounds familiar...)


This Hampshire is Like New

The early primaries are breathlessly over-covered and overanalyzed (especially on cable news). A quick overview of the New Hampshire results: Bernie won (but not by nearly as much as 2016). Pete held steady. Amy surged. Elizabeth and Joe trailed off. Turnout, high. And best of all, votes were tallied and counted properly! Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic: A Drawn-Out Nomination Fight Is More Likely Than Ever. "The New Hampshire results confirmed Sanders and Buttigieg as the field's top-tier contenders and elevated Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who surged from a fifth-place finish in Iowa to a strong third here after a widely praised debate performance on Friday night. But the outcome may end up diminishing two of the field's previous leaders more than it boosts the candidates who came out on top." (This time of year, I always get a little nostalgic for old hampshire.)


Exhausting Branding Exercise

"Mostly, you'll notice gloves from brands that, unless you've spent a lot of time searching for gloves on Amazon, you've never heard of. Brands that evoke nothing in particular, but which do so in capital letters. Brands that are neither translated nor Romanized nor transliterated from another language, and which may contain words, or names, that do not seem to refer to the products they sell. " The NYT's John Herrman on the thousands of new, often temporary, and almost always unheard of brands flooding Amazon. All Your Favorite Brands, From BSTOEM to ZGGCD.

+ The Wirecutter: Welcome to the Era of Fake Products. "If you shop on Amazon, you've probably bought things from third-party sellers without knowing it. I have."


Flying Blind

"In December 2003, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers, the New York Times ran a story entitled 'Staying Aloft; What Does Keep Them Up There?' The point of the piece was a simple question: What keeps planes in the air? To answer it, the Times turned to John D. Anderson, Jr., curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and author of several textbooks in the field.
What Anderson said, however, is that there is actually no agreement on what generates the aerodynamic force known as lift." Ed Regis in Scientific American: No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay In The Air. (I can't even explain how tray tables work.)


Arizona Copper

"They'd ridden two decades of escalating political polarization over immigration to the top of the agency. They brought with them an entrenched us-against-them defiance that they'd fostered in the Arizona desert, when, feeling maligned and misunderstood, they'd forged their own way. For better or worse, they'd had a hand in shaping virtually every aspect of the agency's leadership and culture." ProPublica: A Group of Agents Rose Through the Ranks to Lead the Border Patrol. They're Leaving It in Crisis.


Beer Money

"As America's craft beer industry continues to boom, the waste it generates can pose challenges for sewer systems. But if it's used in the right spot, in the right amount, it's potentially beneficial and can actually save wastewater treatment plants money." Beer Waste Saves Montana Town $1 Million On Water Treatment. (In fairness, without the beer, there'd be a lot less wastewater to treat...)


Off Target

"Maggie Gaines understands why her daughter's teacher at Valley Forge Elementary School went to the principal after the 6-year-old pointed her finger at the teacher like a gun and said, 'I shoot you.' What she doesn't understand is why she and her husband had to end up on a conference call with the Tredyffrin Township police the next day." (Believe it or not, this story is even more ridiculous than it sounds.) A 6-year-old pointed a finger gun at her teacher and said ‘I shoot you.' Her school called the cops.


Bottom of the News

"They are clever yet cartoonish, their eagerness a liability. Searles once had to tackle a cub to remove a Costco snack jar stuck on the young bear's head ... 'A grizzly bear is an apex predator; he will eat the tire off your truck,' Searles says. 'All a black bear wants to do is mow your lawn.'" LA Times: It's words, not bullets, for the ‘bear whisperer' of the Eastern Sierra. (Oddly, he doesn't whisper at bears. He yells at them. More odd? They listen.)

+ Wildlife photos: Squabbling mice top 'people's poll' award.