Happy Wednesday! Here's what I'm reading before my 8pm meeting, now that my 6:30pm meeting just ended:
And finally, the New Yorker's Tom Papa introduces you to "asshole cat behaviors."
With apologies to Radio Netherlands, Goldberg hits Jeffrey Toobin's latest HR incident with frequency until it hertz:
There’s been a lot of handwringing—so to speak—about Toobin, the New Yorker’s legal correspondent. One writer, after running through a string of jokes about Toobin’s prosecution of his “southern district,” insists that we should act like a jury ordered by the judge to ignore evidence. In one of the greatest understatements ever written, he says, “Granted, there are few things more unprofessional than masturbating during a company meeting,” and then goes on to say that Toobin’s just too good at providing perspective to be shunned for toobin’.
Over at the Daily News, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wants to make this seminal moment into a seminal moment. You see, the people who should really be embarrassed are the ones making a big deal about this. Zimmerman makes the perfectly fine point that people should be more upset about Toobin’s past behavior, specifically his adultery, and not hoist him on a petard for hoisting his own petard on a Zoom call. We’re all prudes, you see, because everybody does it, but doing it has been “a big no-no since the advent of the Enlightenment.”
In a country with over 1.3 million lawyers, I love the idea that the one guy caught badgering his own friendly witness is just too indispensable.
I won't spoil the rest of it, except to say Goldberg really pulls it out. He's not dicking around here, he grabs it with both hands. And he's not just writing for the house organ; he let it hang out for all to see.
Bonus: Here's Sir Paul McCartney explaining Jeffrey Toobin's new reality:
I stumbled upon this commercial from the 1980s that ran in the UK:
Definitely John Cleese. (And what the hell has 4.1 megabytes?)
McSweeny's gives you the person "in charge of the deck chairs on the Titanic, and they absolutely did need rearranging:"
I am aware that the phrase “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” has become shorthand for “a task rendered useless in the face of overwhelming circumstances.” Well, here’s another phrase for you: “how you do anything is how you do everything.” And if I was willing to die leaving a bunch of chairs sloppily bunched together with no thought to view or most pleasant sea breeze, I can assure you that I would have made a lowly member of the Eternal Choir indeed. As it is, I am a frequent soloist, thank you very much.
As an everlasting spirit, I can see that some of you are slumped over your workspaces, or your children, wondering what the point of any of this is. Does it really matter, I hear you ask yourself, if I finish my screenplay? Who’s even going to make movies anymore? Who cares, in the long run, if I file these reports or simply burn my entire house to the ground? What the disharmonious FUCK is the point of Zoom calls for kindergarteners? These are the thoughts of an inattentive chair-master, my friends. I am sure that when you think of the kind of chaos that’s unfolding across the planet as bodies are wrecked by virus and economies by quarantine, your daily data-entry tasks seem like small, absurd potatoes. I invite you to look up from your own navel and consider whether you wish to die with dignity, or like a fractious, spoilt child who can’t even manage the most basic of secretarial tasks.
It's...surprisingly on the nose. (It's still not the Baroness Elsa's letter, though.)
Starting in March, this year has seemed like a weird anthology TV show, with each month written and directed by a different team. We haven't had Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme yet; I'm hoping that'll be the season finale in February. This month we seem to have Armando Iannucci running the show, as the President's antics over the weekend suggest.
So here's how I'm spending lunch:
Tomorrow night will be the vice-presidential debate, which I will again live-blog. I can't wait.
Nicholas Kristof reminds us that you can beat a narcissistic authoritarian by laughing at him:
That’s one gauge of the power of humor: Dictators fear mockery. The Committee to Protect Journalists says it has intervened this year alone to defend seven cartoonists around the world who were arrested, threatened with prosecution or threatened with death.
Leaders like Trump who pose as religious are particularly easy to skewer, as Iranians have shown in their use of humor to highlight the hypocrisy of their own mullahs. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is still nicknamed “Crocodile” because of a cartoon many years ago by Nik Kowsar, who now lives in exile in America because hard-liners arrested him and threatened to murder him.
Citizens who aren’t political are often wary of pro-democracy leaders who are perceived as radical, as irreligious or as overeducated elitists. But those ordinary citizens appreciate a joke, so humor becomes a way to win them over.
“The grins of the people are the nightmares of the dictators,” wrote Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while in prison. He is best-known for his eloquent essays calling for democracy, but he argued that humor is also essential in undermining authoritarian rulers.
Liu generously added — and this may be relevant to a polarized country like the United States — that satirizing an authoritarian is good for the nation because it makes the eventual downfall and transition softer and less violent.
I sincerely hope that Joe Biden mocks the president mercilessly on Tuesday.
It's day 88 of my exile from the office, but I recently found out I may get to go in for a day soon. Will this happen before the 24th (day 100)? Who's got the over/under on that?
Meanwhile, outside my bubble:
And just in case you're not scared of everything on earth, here's a list of things in the cosmos that can help you feel even more scared.
The most powerful man in the world threw a hissy fit yesterday when Twitter finally—finally!—slapped a misinformation warning on one of his lies:
President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened social media companies with new regulation or even shuttering a day after Twitter added fact checks to two of his tweets.
The president can’t unilaterally regulate or close the companies, which would require action by Congress or the Federal Communications Commission. But that didn't stop Trump from angrily issuing a strong warning.
Claiming tech giants “silence conservative voices,” Trump tweeted, “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”
Trump and his campaign angrily lashed out Tuesday after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted that “mail boxes will be robbed,” among other things. Under the tweets, there is now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a Twitter “moments” page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.
Trump replied on Twitter, accusing the platform of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and insisting that “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” Twitter has banned all political advertising since last November.
Since the only response that people of any intelligence should give this malarkey is laughter, I present to you the president's own words as lip-synced by comedian Sarah Cooper:
It's a little comforting to realize that we've only dealt with Covid-19 social distancing rules about 5% as long as we dealt with World War II (1,345 days from 7 December 1941 to 13 August 1945). It's still a grind.
In the news today:
Finally, perhaps jealous of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's memes, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle put this out on Facebook recently:
And now, Adult Storytime brings you Brenda's Beaver Needs a Barber: