$4.8 trillion, 910 deaths, and "Parasite"
Third Cultured vol. 49
|Kyle Borland||Feb 10|
Last week was the best moment of Donald Trump’s presidency so far.
He was acquitted on both Articles of Impeachment, the Democrats historically fumbled Iowa (and impeachment), he got to brag at the State of the Union, his campaign has more than $200 million in cash, and Gallup showed his approval rating at its highest ever (49%).
But, you wouldn’t know it from how the president is acting.
He went on a tirade for more than an hour last Thursday praising his supporters and promising revenge on those who wronged him. Romney, in particular, since he was the first senator to ever vote to remove a president from his own party.
When he learned they planned to resign quietly, he fired two impeachment witnesses – Ambassador Gordon D. Sondland and Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman – in what has been deemed a “Friday night massacre.”
Other staffers now fear their retribution may be just around the corner and Senator Schumer asked every agency’s inspectors general to investigate whistleblower retaliation after Vindman’s firing.
We’ve always known he wasn’t presidential but, after last week, the Democratic establishment is freaking out that he’ll actually be re-elected. I don’t know what world these “experts” live in but that has been the likely outcome since November 2016.
Seems Democrats are miscalculating from the jump (again).
It’s a long one, so be sure to open in your browser. Thanks for reading.
PS – Some must-reads:
The Golden Age of White Collar Crime (Huff Post)
The Money Behind Trump’s Money (NYT Magazine)
The Sad Path From Reaganism to National Conservatism (The Atlantic)
Three Things to Know
One American Thing
White House proposed a $4.8 trillion budget for 2021, which includes a $705.4 billion budget request for the Pentagon. It calls for increasing AI R&D funding from $973 million to nearly $2 billion by 2022 and quantum information sciences spending to $860 million within two years. The National Science Foundation will also see its budget for AI-related grants and interdisciplinary research institutes rise to more than $850 million.
Massive cuts to food stamp benefits, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs account for half of the plan’s goal to cut $4.4 trillion from the deficit by 2030.
One International Thing
2019-nCoV (The Wuhan Coronavirus)
Beijing is making $43 billion available in loans to businesses affected by the outbreak as infections double every few days. China halved tariffs on US imports to boost global confidence. Xi re-appeared in official media.
A 60-year old American died of the virus in Wuhan but, with only 12 infections in the US, Americans should be more worried about the normal flu than any coronavirus.
130 infected on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan.
The UK canceled all flights to China until March 31 and declared a “serious and imminent threat to public health.”
Beijing is doubling down on suppressing information even though that’s how the virus was able to spread to the extent it has today.
WHO asked for $675m to fight the virus.
One Cultural Thing
South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho won Best Director, Best Picture, Best International Film, and Best Original Screenplay for his movie, “Parasite.” It was the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. (Side note: His translator is amazing!)
Truth be told, the South Korea/US relationship badly needed this soft power boost and it’d be hard to convince me that didn’t play a role in the historic night.
“The whole country has responded…starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control.”
36 percent of US troops have seen evidence of white supremacist ideologies in the military, according to a 2019 poll. Only 22 percent said the same in the 2018 poll.
Authoritarian misinformation tactics and technology will define 2020. For example, Pelosi ripping Trump’s SOTU speech was not illegal.
Can Jeff Sessions win his seat back from Senator Doug Jones (D–AL)?
GOP leaders in South Carolina are planning to influence Democratic primary in Bernie’s favor. (They’re digging their own grave.)
Klobuchar raised $3 million in the 24 hours following Friday’s debate.
New Hampshire could solidify a two-way national contest: Bernie vs Pete.
Progressive Millennials can’t stand Mayo Pete.
The app that broke Iowa should never have been deployed.
The Root ranked each candidate’s “Cookoutworthiness.”
Tom Perez must resign immediately. (The DNC cannot be saved…let’s be real.)
Trump is focused on winning suburban voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania, nabbing New Hampshire and Minnesota, and Black voters.
Women of color left Warren’s Nevada campaign after feeling tokenized.
At least 138 people deported from the US to El Salvador were murdered.
Attorney General William Barr proposed an American takeover of Nokia and/or Ericsson to help close the 5G gap between Beijing and Washington.
DHS suspended Global Entry for New York residents in retaliation for sanctuary law.
Homelessness rose in the US for the third year in a row, driven by CA and rural areas.
NATO allies are reconsidering a presence in Afghanistan amid US drawdown. Plus, this weekend, two US troops were killed and six were wounded in an insider attack.
Returning to the moon by 2024 is a pipe dream, so says a former ISS commander.
The Navy awarded $178 million to Booz Allen Hamilton to modernize GPS.
The US arranged a trilateral meeting with Israel and the UAE on Iran. The White House is pushing for nonaggression pacts between Israel, UAE, and other Gulf states.
Turkish-US drone program halted indefinitely after Turkey’s 2019 Syrian incursion.
Virginia is making Election Day a state holiday by eliminating a state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
China, Europe, Russia, and Everyone Else
28 – Number of years since Australia had a recession but bushfires may slow economy.
29 – Number of people killed in a mass shooting at a mall and military base in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand.
AKK – Angela Merkel’s chosen successor – resigned amid electoral defeat.
Belarus announced it will buy Russian oil, without subsidies, at global market prices.
Canada filed a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Iran for killing 57 Canadians last month.
Cyprus is at a crossroads: re-unification or de facto Turkish rule forever.
Egypt is about to lose control of the Nile for the first time in thousands of years. It and Ethiopia may go to war over a $4.5b dam if the White House can’t mediate a deal.
Estonia knows how to pushback against Russian interference better than anyone else.
France approved of the EU’s proposed ascension amendments, which would make it easier for the Balkan nations to join the union after Paris blocked them in 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a $428 billion budget for 2020-21 but few are optimistic it will turn the weakening economy around.
Irish politics got more interesting on Sunday as the left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein party won 25 percent of the vote, with the two centrist parties finishing with just 22 percent each. However, the center-right Fine Gael party refused to coalition with Sinn Fein even before ballots were cast due to its association with the Irish Republican Army. Fine Gael and its centrist rival party Fianna Fail have ruled Ireland since its independence a century ago but the results broke that two-party stranglehold.
Lebanon approved a financial rescue plan, including interest rate cuts.
Netanyahu’s Likud party leaked Israel’s entire voter registry because of an app…
Nigeria, once a favorite, has fallen out of favor with DC over disorganization. For example, the election body de-registered 75 political parties, leaving only 18.
Turkey announced $36 million in military aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia.
UN Security Council meeting called to discuss the crisis in Syria’s Idlib region. The regime’s assault reclaimed 600 square kilometers of the province on Sunday alone. Turkey’s President Ergodan demanded Damascus cease its assault in Idlib – Turkey already hosts 3.6 million refugees and cannot handle more – or face “Turkish action.”
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Cities, Climate, Culture & Corporations
113 – Amount of Chinese cities with more than 1 million people.
A time-lapse of global urban sprawl.
Big Tech is starting to pay for the negative effects it has on the cities around them.
Bill and Melinda Gates published their annual letter, which announced the foundation spent $53.8 billion over the past 20 years.
California pardoned civil rights icon, Bayard Rustin, for his 1953 gay sex conviction.
Law enforcement (DHS, ICE, etc.) buys phone location data from Big Tech.
Swiss voters – 63.1 percent – expanded anti-discrimination laws to include LGB folks.
Tesla is now the world’s second most valuable automaker, worth twice as much as Ford and GM combined even though it produces 3 percent of the cars.
The Sierra Club hates affordable housing. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true!
What would Thomas Jefferson say while watching a performance of Hamilton?
Yes, Apple slows down our iPhones.