Daily Blog November 2019 – Updated daily

Vote set rules for public phase of impeachment inquiry, laying out plan that could produce televised hearings within two weeks

Pelosi bangs the gavel: House votes to endorse Trump impeachment inquiry

And so begins November with a formal beginning to see whether impeachment is a valid option for the most corrupt President in United States history. I’m book- marking this story as the first step in a month that is certainly going to be marked in American history as the battle for the republic. And so it goes…

136 thoughts on “Daily Blog November 2019 – Updated daily

  1. Democratic Debate Winners and Losers from The Washington Post

    Winners and losers from the latest Democratic debate

    The Democratic presidential candidates momentarily sidelined the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday night, when they met in Atlanta for the November MSNBC-Washington Post debate.
    Live updates from the debate

    Below are some winners and losers. (at the links)

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  2. This tweet may have a short shelf life:

  3. Gordon Sondland: witness White House fears most to testify

    Sondland will face questions on Wednesday over a key phone call with Trump at a restaurant in Ukraine

    Some have speculated that Sondland will plead the fifth amendment at Wednesday’s hearing. Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

    Donald Trump’s own words will take centre stage at the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday when his ambassador to the European Union faces questions about a phone call with the US president in a Ukrainian restaurant.

    Gordon Sondland is the witness who most alarms officials at the White House, according to US media reports, fueling speculation that the ambassador could plead the fifth amendment to protect himself from self-incrimination.

    Along with the diplomat Kurt Volker and the energy secretary, Rick Perry, Sondland – a wealthy hotelier who donated $1m to Trump’s inaugural committee – was one of the so-called “three amigos” the Trump administration used to bypass normal state department channels to Ukraine.

    He has already changed his closed-door testimony to admit he told an aide to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that military aid would not be released until Kyiv announced an investigation into a gas company linked to the son of the former vice-president Joe Biden, a potential challenger to Trump in next year’s election.

    But even the revised statement failed to report that Sondland called Trump from a restaurant in Kiev on 26 July and discussed “investigations”. The president was speaking loudly and the call was overheard by David Holmes, a political counselor at the US embassy in Ukraine, according to testimony released this week.

    Holmes told the House of Representatives’ inquiry: “I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s going to do it’, adding that President Zelenskiy will, quote, ‘do anything you ask him to’.”

    Holmes said he had spoken to Sondland immediately after the call. In his opening statement, Holmes recalled: “Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not ‘give a shit about Ukraine’. I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about ‘big stuff’ … like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr [Rudy] Giuliani was pushing.”

    The Trump call is not Sondland’s only headache. He is also likely to be cross-examined about a White House meeting with US and Ukrainian officials on 10 July at which he allegedly said the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had made clear a meeting between Zelenskiy and Trump in Washington was conditioned on the investigations being launched.

    Finish the story at The Guardian.

  4. A clever new solar solution to one of the trickiest climate problems

    Making high-temperature industrial heat from sunlight.

    Heliogen’s demonstration tower in Lancaster, California. Heliogen

    It’s pretty clear how we can reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from some sectors of the economy. Electricity, transportation, and buildings, three of the biggest emitters, have a pathway to zero. It won’t be easy, and progress is too slow, but we have a handle on what to do.

    But there are still big chunks of the economy that don’t have a clear line of sight to zero. They don’t yet have the tools they need at competitive prices. They are still waiting on innovation.

    Many of them, including cement and steel, rely on large amounts of continuous high-temperature heat, and as I described in this post, there are very few viable low-carbon sources of such heat. Collectively, these industrial processes represent around 20 percent of global carbon emissions. It is one of the thorniest dilemmas in climate policy.


    It’s not often that I write about a carbon policy dilemma only to have a clever new solution arrive in my inbox mere days later, but that’s what happened. A new company called Heliogen, coming out of stealth mode on Tuesday, has developed a brand new, zero-carbon way of generating high-temperature heat. It’s backed by an experienced team, boasts Bill Gates as an investor, and seems to have pulled off the rare trick of creating something new in the cleantech world.

    Let’s take a look at how they do it.

    Finish the story at Vox.com.

  5. Tuesday’s impeachment hearings were a disaster for Republicans

    Even their own witnesses said damaging stuff.

    Ranking member Representative Devin Nunes of Califorina (left), listens as Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on November 19, 2019. Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/AFP/Getty Images

    In theory, the makeup of Tuesday’s House Intelligence impeachment hearings could have led to a balanced day, with some good news for Democrats and some for Republicans.

    The first part of the hearing featured testimony from two witnesses called by the Democrats: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who listened in on President Trump’s call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. The second part was devoted to two witnesses called by the Republicans: former US ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former Trump foreign policy adviser Tim Morrison.

    But Tuesday’s testimony was, from practically top to bottom, a disaster for the president and his Republican allies.

    All four of the witnesses confirmed key parts of the overall case against the president — that he twisted US foreign policy into a tool of his reelection campaign by using military aid in an effort force Ukraine into opening an investigation into the Biden family. In one particularly striking example, Volker — one of the GOP witnesses — amended his earlier closed-door deposition to clarify that the administration’s behavior was shadier than he had previously thought.

    Finish the story at Vox.com.


    Republicans’ attempt to smear a decorated war veteran did not go well.

    Hello, and welcome to week two of the impeachment inquiry’s public hearings. Last week the House Intelligence Committee heard testimony from career officials concerning Donald Trump’s plot to extort Ukraine for personal gain, which Republicans rejected as hearsay because it came from people who were not on the infamous July 25 phone call. This morning the witnesses included Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who were listening in as Trump asked Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor,” meaning the GOP has had to pivot in its sad, sad defense of the president. And here’s what it’s come up with: trying, and failing, to suggest Vindman, a decorated Army veteran who received a Purple Heart in 2004, can’t be trusted.

    Not surprisingly, that honor went to resident angry man Jim Jordan, who read from the deposition of National Security Council adviser Tim Morrison, who, according to Jordan, expressed “concerns” about Vindman’s judgment. “So your boss had concerns about your judgment,” Jordan said. “Your former boss, Dr. [Fiona] Hill, had concerns about your judgment. Your colleagues had concerns about your judgment. And your colleagues felt that there were times when you leaked information. Any idea why they have those impressions, Colonel Vindman?” Jordan asked, clearly thinking he’d nailed the guy. To which Vindman, perhaps expecting the attempted smear, responded by reading a performance evaluation written by Hill earlier this year.

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  7. Stephen Miller Is a White Nationalist. Does It Matter?

    Leaked emails from a top Trump aide test our capacity for outrage.

    By Michelle Goldberg
    Opinion Columnist

    In August 2018, Darren Beattie, a White House speechwriter and policy aide, was fired after CNN revealed that he’d spoken at a 2016 conference alongside several white nationalists, including contributors to the website VDARE. Later that month, Ian M. Smith, a policy analyst working on immigration at the Department of Homeland Security, resigned after The Atlantic obtained leaked emails linking him to white nationalists.

    We’re about to find out how far the already impossibly low standards to which we hold the Trump administration have fallen since then. Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published evidence of the white nationalism of Stephen Miller, President Trump’s senior immigration adviser. The S.P.L.C. obtained more than 900 emails from 2015 and 2016 that Miller, who was then an aide to Senator Jeff Sessions, sent to editors at the far-right website Breitbart to shape its coverage of race and immigration. The group got the emails from Katie McHugh, a former Breitbart editor who, after being fired for anti-Muslim tweets, moved even further right before renouncing racism. The emails show that Miller was steeped in white nationalism before he joined the White House, where he’s had the opportunity to put his racist views into practice.

    McHugh told the S.P.L.C. that her bosses introduced her to Miller so that he could help guide the site’s reporting. Miller forwarded her articles from sites like VDARE — named for Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America — and Alex Jones’s Infowars. Miller sent McHugh information about “immigrant crime” and offered her talking points on defending Confederate iconography in the wake of the white nationalist Dylann Roof’s massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.

    Finish reading in a pdf of this article or Finish in the New York Timesl.

  8. Facebook still isn’t clear about why it won’t take down false political ads

    At Code Media on Monday, a vice president at Facebook said the company can’t legally take down political ads. Soon after, Facebook walked those comments back.

    Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, onstage at the 2019 Code Media conference in Los Angeles. Tori Stolper for Vox Media

    Facebook has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months over its political ads policy that allows politicians to lie in ads. On Monday, one of Facebook’s top marketers again defended the policy and said the company has no plans to change it, insisting that it’s up to voters to decide what messages resonate and are true, even if they’re false.

    “That’s not a role that Facebook should be playing and interfering with democracy,” said said Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, in an interview with Recode’s Peter Kafka at the 2019 Code Media conference in Los Angeles on Monday. But critics have argued that Facebook’s policy allows political campaigns to do that very thing.

    Since the 2016 election, Facebook has been forced to reckon with the ways its platform can be weaponized to spread disinformation, undermine democracy, and influence politics. The company insists it’s trying to do better, largely by promising to be more transparent. (Everson declared that Facebook is “the most transparent ad platform in the world”).

    But when it comes to substantive changes, the social media giant keeps saying it’s government regulators’ responsibility to figure out what to do. Facebook knows that Washington, DC, moves slowly; it will be a long time, if ever, before US lawmakers pass regulations on issues such as privacy, data collection, and ads for social media platforms. And so in the meantime, Facebook gets to keep calling the shots — and avoiding responsibility when it doesn’t.

    Finish the story at Vox/recode.

  9. Ayanna Pressley’s ‘Reset’ For America

    The Massachusetts Congresswoman talks with Rolling Stone about her plan to end mass incarceration, how the current system failed her family, and more

    U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley listens during A Day of Celebration in Honor of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. at Boston University in Boston on Jan. 21, 2019.
    Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

    It has been a year since Pressley became the first black woman that Massachusetts voters have ever elected to the House of Representatives. On Thursday, Rep. Pressley, a Democrat, put forth a new House resolution that uses five principles — shared power, freedom, equality, safety, and dignity — as guides to launch expansive reforms of, as she put in a statement, “a racist, xenophobic, rogue, and fundamentally flawed criminal legal system.” Included among those are lowering the prison population, abolishing the death penalty nationwide, shoring up the American social safety net, and helping those who are confined by improving health care and ensuring their civil rights.

    Finish the story at Rolling Stonne.

  10. The collapse of the information ecosystem poses profound risks for humanity

    The viral spread of misinformation, widening news deserts and the proliferation of fake news will threaten life as we know it

    A Boston Globe front page with the headline THE CASE TO IMPEACH, FOR ALL TO HEAR posted at the Newseum on 13 November in Washington DC. Photograph: Mark Makela/Getty Images

    For the last few years, scientists have argued that we’re living through a distinctly new geological age. They call it the Anthropocene: a new age characterized by humanity’s profound impact on E00arth itself as evidenced by pollution, mass extinction and climate change.

    We are currently facing a new systemic collapse, one that has built far more swiftly but poses potent risks for all of humanity: the collapse of the information ecosystem. We see it play out every day with the viral spread of misinformation, widening news deserts and the proliferation of fake news. This collapse has much in common with the environmental collapse of the planet that we’re only now beginning to grasp, and its consequences for life as we know it are shaping up to be just as profound.

    The digital revolution greatly expanded human knowledge and wealth much as the industrial revolution did 150 years earlier when new technologies, notably the combustion engine, brought about extraordinary economic growth. And much like the building of great railways and interstate highways allowed people to connect, the creation of tools that allow anyone to be their own publisher has made it possible for new voices to reach large audiences around the world.

    The collapse of the information ecosystem has already wreaked havoc on our political systems

    But if the price of the industrial revolution was planetary destruction on an unimaginable scale, the digital revolution may be costly in a different but similarly destructive way. William Randolph Hearst owned the means of production and was free to publish made up stories to sell papers and stoke the Spanish-American war. Today, everyone is free to be their own propagandist.

    When the scientists behind the Doomsday clock published their yearly assessment of how close we are to planetary doom, they added a new dimension to the dual threats of nuclear proliferation and climate change, namely “the intentional corruption of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends”.

    What we’ve seen in recent years isn’t just the collapse of informational authority. It is the destruction of the pact between the purveyors of quality information and the businesses that wanted to reach the consumers of that information.

    Finish the story at The Guardian.

  11. From the “You Can Lie To Some of the People All the Time” department

    With impeachment, America’s epistemic crisis has arrived

    Can the right-wing machine hold the base in an alternate reality long enough to get through the next election?

    The ultimate spin-machine challenge. Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Back in 2017, I wrote a piece speculating that the Mueller hearings might bring America’s epistemic crisis to a head. That crisis involves Americans’ growing inability, not just to cooperate, but even to learn and know the same things, to have a shared understanding of reality. We have sorted ourselves into polarized factions living in different worlds, not just of values, but of facts. Communication between them is increasingly difficult.

    I wondered what might happen if Mueller offered clear, incontrovertible evidence of Trump’s guilt. Would the right wing be able to prevent its members from ever finding out? What if the truth was revealed but it had no power, no effect at all, because half the country had been walled off from it? What if there is no longer any evidentiary standard that can overcome our polarization?

    As it happened, the hearings didn’t play out that way. Mueller’s report and testimony were oddly oblique and muted, with notable omissions. It proved relatively easy for the president and his supplicant media to dismiss the whole thing as a dud.

    Read more.

  12. Fox News? More Like Trump’s Impeachment Shield

    Nixon lacked the cable network’s advantage, but are its viewers misled?

    By Nicholas Kristof

    Researchers have found that Fox News isn’t very effective at informing Americans. A 2012 study by Fairleigh Dickinson University reported that watching Fox News had “a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.”

    The study found that those who regularly watched Fox News actually knew less about both domestic and international issues than those who watched no news at all. N.P.R. listeners were particularly well-informed, the study found, but even people who got their news from a comedy program like “The Daily Show” — or who had no news source whatsoever — knew more about current events than Fox viewers.

    That may be correlation rather than causation, but at the least it suggests that viewers of Fox News don’t actually learn much.

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  13. New York Times editor says Trump has put his reporters’ lives at risk

    Dean Baquet decries abuse of journalists and defends not calling president racist

    Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, at the newspaper’s London office. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

    The executive editor of the New York Times has accused Donald Trump of putting his reporters’ lives at risk by subjecting them to personal abuse and describing them as “enemies of the people”.

    Dean Baquet, who has led the news outlet during one of the most tumultuous periods in its history, said the US president’s history of verbal attacks on journalists such as the New York Times’s political reporter Maggie Haberman was “appalling” and risked having serious consequences.

    “I think his personal attacks on reporters, including Maggie, are pretty awful and pretty unpresidential,” he said. “I think personal attacks on journalists, when he calls them names, I think he puts their lives at risk.

    “I think that when he actually calls reporters names, says they’re un-American, says they’re enemies of the people … that phrase has a deep history. I think when he says that, it is an appalling attack on the press.”

    Read more.

  14. “Sickening” And “Proof” Of Racism: DHS Officials Said Stephen Miller Must Go After His Emails Were Released

    “Not that it wasn’t clear before — these emails just confirm what we all know,” a DHS official said. “I’m disgusted that my venerable agency has turned into his personal tool for hate.”

    Drew Angerer / Getty Images

    A cache of emails revealed this week in which White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, in the run-up to the 2016 election, shared articles and websites affiliated with white nationalism has disturbed officials working in the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department, who called the emails “sickening” and “proof” that Miller has been steering a racist immigration policy under President Trump.

    The emails sent from Miller to editors of the far-right website Breitbart and obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center show Miller sharing a story from the white nationalist site VDare, pushing for Breitbart to write about a novel popular among white nationalists, and linking to a report detailing second-generation Muslims with the subject line “Huge Surge in US newborns named ‘Mohammed.’”

    The civil rights nonprofit said that after reviewing 900 emails, it was “unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.” In one such email chain, the SPLC said Miller directed Breitbart reporter Katie McHugh, who supplied the emails to the group, to aggregate information from American Renaissance, a white supremacist journal, for a story on crimes committed by nonwhite people.

    “It’s sickening to know that someone with these viewpoints held a position of trust for a United States Senator,” said one DHS official, referring to former senator and attorney general Jeff Sessions, “and now in the White House. Not that it wasn’t clear before — these emails just confirm what we all know. I’m disgusted that my venerable agency has turned into his personal tool for hate.”

    Read more.

  15. 5 Ways to Debunk the GOP’s Defense of Donald Trump

    The Republican anti-impeachment arguments are weak but pernicious. Here’s how to counter them.

    Minority legal counsel Steve Castor speaks with Republican Representative Jim Jordan during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Reuters Pictures / Jim Lo Scalzo)

    Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin could not have written dialogue that more comically illustrates the weakness of the Republican defense of Donald Trump than what Republicans wrote for themselves during their feeble cross-examination of US Ambassador William Taylor on Wednesday.

    During that first round of the impeachment hearings, Steve Castor, the Republican counsel chosen to cross-examine Taylor and former State Department official George Kent, quizzed Taylor about Rudolph Giuliani’s shadow diplomacy on behalf of Trump. Castor asked: “Now, Ambassador Taylor, I want to turn to the discussion of the irregular channel you described. In fairness, this irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”

    Friends, when your lawyer is asking a witness to describe your client’s conduct on a scale of “outlandishness,” you are in legal jeopardy. Taylor eventually responded, “It’s not as outlandish as it could be, I agree, Mr. Castor.” If you listened closely you could probably hear Colonel Nathan Jessup from A Few Good Men saying “Phone calls and footlockers? Please tell me you have something more, Lieutenant.”

    Unlike in the movie, however, this really is all the House Republicans have. They have no exculpatory evidence. They have no hidden witness to unveil. They don’t even have an ill-fitting glove for Trump to try on. All they have is wild conspiracy theories, faux process concerns, and the desperate Hail Mary argument that the president of the United States doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand that he’s committing crimes.

    These arguments are bad. Insultingly so. But that does not mean they should be dismissed. Democrats have a habit of letting the very worst arguments go unaddressed—think pedophile pizza-parlor conspiracies or anti-vax hysteria—only to be shocked when a bunch of kids with measles raid a Chuck-E-Cheese.

    It might feel wrong, but let’s lower ourselves and actually debunk the five most prominent Republican defenses of Donald Trump.


    Read more about the 5 ways to debunk Republican’s flimsy arguments.

  16. Too Far Left? Some Candidates Don’t Buy the Argument

    One day after former President Barack Obama cautioned against being out of touch with voters, Democratic candidates said there was a winner among them.

    “What we’re doing right now, creating these dynamics within the Democratic Party, we’ve got to be careful,” Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said.Credit…Chris Carlson/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images

    LONG BEACH, Calif. — The crowded Democratic field of presidential candidates grappled with President Barack Obama’s advice and legacy on Saturday, the day after the former president sounded an unusual public warning about moving too far left in the primary race.

    While none were willing to directly rebuff Mr. Obama, a few candidates offered implicit criticism, saying that Democrats should be careful to steadfastly back the field so that whoever wins the nomination can count on enthusiastic support from all corners of the party.

    “What we’re doing right now, creating these dynamics within the Democratic Party, we’ve got to be careful,” Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said, his voice rising as he addressed reporters in Long Beach, Calif., after speaking at the state’s Democratic Convention. “Because whoever is the nominee, we have one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president. And so I’m not interested in delineating left or right or criticizing other folks.”

    “Let’s stop tearing each other down, let’s stop drawing artificial lines,” he added. “I’m tired in this election of hearing some people say, ‘Well if this person gets elected, I can’t support them,’ and then other people say, ‘If this person gets elected, I can’t support them.’ Are you kidding me?”

    Among the liberal wing of the party, Mr. Obama’s remarks prompted fierce backlash online and the creation of the hashtag #TooFarLeft by Peter Daou, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton.

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  17. Republicans, the Real Chickens of Kiev

    A bad day for the president, from Roger Stone’s criminal conviction to Marie Yovanovitch’s moral conviction.

    Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — When he was running in 2016, Donald Trump told me that he reminded himself of another presidential candidate — someone, Trump said, who was also tremendously good-looking, a former entertainer and a Democrat-turned-Republican.

    The vainglorious Trump felt he was the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

    It is true that, like Reagan, Trump has reshaped his party in his own image, fully inhabiting it. But Reagan’s great mission was to thwart the Evil Empire, taunting that he would put a Star Wars shield in the sky. He wanted democratic ideals to supersede authoritarian rule in the Soviet Union.

    Trump’s more sinister and incomprehensible aim is to help the Russians whenever he can.

    While Reagan’s legacy will be helping to tear down communism and that wall, Trump’s legacy will be turning Republican lawmakers into dupes assisting Russia as it undermines our democracy — and democracy around the world.

    Nancy Pelosi never spoke truer words than when she chided Trump, “With you, all roads lead to Putin.”

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

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