As we dive back into Impeachment Trial #2, let us all review where we left off last time. During Adam Schiff’s closing arguments he levels this charge at his GOP colleagues.
History will not be kind to Donald Trump. If you find that the House has proved its case, and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history. But if you find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath—if only you will say, ‘Enough.’
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., closing arguments – February 3, 2020
I can’t believe we’re here again. Let’s hope that our representatives rise to their moment in history this time.
The venerable and respected New England Journal of Medicine broke with tradition and published a political editorial lambasting the current administration’s response to Covid-19. While they did not call out Trump & Pence by name, they basically called them a threat to the health and society of all Americans and encouraged their readers to vote them out of office.
Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.
The magnitude of this failure is astonishing.
After a couple of data points showing how poorly the US squandered its opportunity to respond and how corrosive the administration was to basic science they continue,
An outbreak that has disproportionately affected communities of color has exacerbated the tensions associated with inequality. Many of our children are missing school at critical times in their social and intellectual development. The hard work of health care professionals, who have put their lives on the line, has not been used wisely.
Then finally, the zinger.
Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.
In 1999 I was at the founding of Factiva, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters, two of the leading news organizations at the time. This global JV brought together the news archival databases of both companies and made them available “on the web” which was a big deal back then.
With the right information, our possibilities are endless.
The Factiva product had a super-complicated search UI which allowed you to create complex search statements that could find articles that mentioned Ford and Aardvark in the first paragraph within 5 words of each other but only in articles written by Phillip Roth (no, I do not think such an article exists btw). This database had over 9,000 newspapers, magazines and news wires. Every single article going back decades, fully indexed and fielded for detailed spelunking. The web was only a minor side tab, we crawled something like 300 sites.
With the right information, we can seize opportunities we never realized we had.
Factiva was a huge business, 26 offices around the world, hundreds of millions in revenue each year. We sold our product to the top global companies around the world. We consulted with them on their information needs and delivered the news and information they needed to run their business. We thought we were hot shit.
If information is going to be our most valuable asset, facts will be its currency.
Playing back the marketing launch video at the top of the post, its funny how innocent it all sounds. All you need are facts to make the world a better place. With facts, all will be right.
Every fact can invigorate and improve the way we think.
Today our elected leaders will decide if testimony and documents from key individuals with first hand knowledge of the Ukraine/Biden/Zelensky affair are necessary to pass judgement on Trump’s impeachment. I really hope our Senators answer a higher calling and #TakeOneWeek to remove any doubt but I’ve become too cynical to see that happening. Facts are not needed in the “pick your truth” world we live in today.
Just imagine what we can do with hundreds and thousands of facts at our fingertips.
So back the Factiva promo video. 1999 was a time when information was scarce. You usually had to work with a corporate “information professional” to use specialized databases to locate and find what you needed. Information was mediated, curated by editors and fact-checked by many layers of the media ecosystem.
Today it’s the opposite – we have such easy and direct access to information that it’s time, focus and attention that are scarce. Because our attention is limited and we are bombarded with shiny things on the internet to look at (and of course, share), news organizations need to hoot, scream and holler to get and, more importantly, hold our attention.
I was hoping that our leaders would rise to their test during this impeachment trial but I fear this will not be the case, they will vote in their own self-interest, circling the wagons to protect themselves. It will be up to us, the public citizens, to seek out facts and the truth and hold our leaders accountable.
I hate to pitch politics as just one side vs. the other because it ignores the fact that we’re all Americans (shout out to the guy in the MAGA hat that waved and cheered me on my morning run) and are lucky that we even have the luxury to debate issues and participate in a political process, however flawed it may be.
Here are the closing arguments of the impeachment trial. It’s instructive to place them side-by-side and compare style and substance.
Let’s see how things go over the next two days in the Q&A portion of the trial. Please focus on the facts, try and remain objective while the political winds swirl around us. Everyone is speaking to a camera.
While watching, I’ll be keeping these words from New Yorker columnist, Jia Tolentino in mind.
The early internet had been constructed around lines of affinity and openness. But when the internet moved to an organizing principle of opposition, much of what had formerly been surprising and rewarding and curious became tedious, noxious, and grim.
This shift partly reflects basic social physics. Having a mutual enemy is a quick way to make a friend—we learn this as early as elementary school—and politically, it’s much easier to organize people against something than it is to unite them in an affirmative vision. And, within the economy of attention, conflict always gets more people to look.
Ambassador Taylor had to reach for his water before dropping this one.
Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about “the investigations.” Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Ambassador William B. Taylor, Opening Statement – 11-13-19
Imagine how loud the President must have been talking into his phone for someone sitting nearby to be able to overhear and recognize not only his voice but the words.