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S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate political gabfest for May 21st, 2020, the L. Shaped Recovery Edition. I am David Plotz of Business Insider.
S3: I’m in Washington, D.C. in in the closet in the hidey hole in the V shaped closet that I have. John Dickerson, he of CBS 60 Minutes is in Manhattan. Hello, John Dickerson.
S4: Hello, David. Glad that you’ve made it out of the tent. The Scott expedition has been rescued from retrieved from the polar depths. And you’re now you’re now safe at a house.
S5: Although I noticed that it. I’m sorry to our listeners who can’t see this, but I realize that the latter I was using to hold up the drapery to create the tent is still here and it’s unsightly.
S4: So I’m going to move that while you introduce our next contestant and our next contestant from New Haven, Connecticut. First time on the prices, right? Come on down. Emily Bazelon of Yale University and mostly the New York Times Magazine. Hello.
S6: I am wearing not a T-shirt for the second day in a row.
S4: I don’t know why exactly do.
S5: I’m wearing a collared shirt and on the oddly I am not looking like hell.
S4: Not too on today’s gabfests. We’ll have a pandemic roundup. The World Health Organization bruhaha the pandemic patchwork across America. The fact that our president is taking an unproven medicine for malaria to forestall getting covered. 19 the huge racial disparity in COVA deaths and more. Then we’ll talk about the insider trading allegations against Senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loffler and others. And then we’ll talk about how Mike Pompei, hose inspector general of the State Department, got poleaxed. Is Pompeo corrupt? How bad is it that all these inspectors general keep getting cashiered? Plus, we will have cocktail chatter. All 50 states are in some phase of reopening. Emily, your state of Connecticut was the last state to begin to start to lift lockdown. There has been some reasonably good news about vaccine trials suggesting that we are probably going to get a vaccine, we’re likely to get a vaccine. Meanwhile, in another pandemic roundup, the president announced he was taking hydroxy chloroquine, this malaria drug, which has shown so far to have no benefit in fighting Cauvin, 19. But the president decided he want to take it anyway. The president also just threatened to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization and to not fund the World Health Organization because he thinks it’s in the pocket of China. So there’s a lot of stuff going on. I want to start, John, with the question of reopening. So there is this idea that we are reopening a country. The economies across the country are reopening. States are reopening. But if you look in the states that have reopened states like Georgia, which started early. Let’s set aside the epidemiological question. But the economic question, these states that have reopened earlier are not really showing any stronger sort of economic recovery than than other states. It doesn’t feel like reopening is the secret to a fast economic recovery.
S5: Yes. I mean, I guess what the quick response could be. Well, baby steps, you need to walk before you can run. And so we shouldn’t expect fast responses. But I don’t I think the more durable answers, the one you first brought up ages ago, which is and which everybody brings up in which Fed Chairman Jerome Powell brought up in his interview with Scott Pelley, which is that this is a health issue and not an economic issue. And then until you until you solve the health situation, which is testing, tracing, contact tracing and isolation, people aren’t going to feel confident enough, which is why polls still some of them show 85 percent or so of people are tentative or nervous, are worried about moving too fast back into quote unquote, normal. A word that almost even shouldn’t be used in air quotes until people feel confident and relaxed about participating in economic activity. A consumer driven economy is not going to bounce back. I saw one small business measure that showed in some opening up states for lack of a better categorical term, 18 percent of the economic activity was about 18 percent better than in those that hadn’t put those measures forward. But it was still 65 percent or so behind where it normally would be. So long, long way from normal. But there does seem to be a little bit more clarity about how things are transmitted, what kinds of behavior and activity is most likely to get you an infection so that at least there does seem to be some rational steps. The problem is what you learn is that restaurants and theaters and big group gatherings. Which will make people feel more normal regardless of their role in the economy. Those kinds of things will be will take a lot longer to happen. And that then means, it seems to me, that coming back, even if you call it open or not, is still going to take quite a long time.
S4: Emily, Connecticut, as I mentioned, is the last state to start to reopen. We have what I think the Atlantic called a patchwork pandemic where the disease of Cauvin, 19, is affecting different parts of the country and different groups in the country in different ways. And so you have in particularly in urban communities and an urban minority communities, urban minority, poor communities, an absolutely devastating impact in other areas, a much lower impact. The economic impact is also somewhat disparate. In that way, it’s been much more inclusive. I think everyone in the country’s economic activity has been affected by it. But even there, the way in which people’s economic activity and daily life has been affected is disparate. And then regionally, the way in which politicians have responded is disparate. So what do you make of this patchwork ness? And is that a is that is a feature or a bug of the American system as it work?
S6: I think it’s it has elements of well, it’s definitely no, it’s a feature of our federal system. I mean, I think. Can you guys hear the garbage truck?
S5: Yeah, it’s our it’s our Thursday morning garbage truck.
S7: Yeah, exactly. Good economic activity and nice to keep you.
S5: That’s right. Can I just interject that one of the things that people enjoy is, is the regularity of the gabfest. We have continued to do the show. It’s creakier. It’s got its own new little rhythm in this awful time. And the arrival of the garbage truck is just a total part of that new system.
S6: And Jocelyn actually asked me to admit my bike.
S7: I guess she was more a garbage truck, more cow bell. The guards, the garbage truck, it’s further up the street. Now, it’s a feature of our federal system.
S6: But I think that the lack of coherent leadership from President Trump and his administration has mostly turned it into a bug. I mean, we’ve talked about this. I think there’s room for some regional variation in states with low or declining case loads. I would want to know one thing about the disparities that you mentioned, David. I’ve looked up the data in Connecticut, my home state, the other day, and the cases were spread out among age groups, but the deaths were very concentrated in people above 60 and actually almost everyone was above 80. So I think there’s a way in which that points to the problems we’ve had protecting nursing homes and retirement communities. It could also suggest a difference in who stays home as we start to open up the experiment. I would really like to run. Is everybody diligently wears masks and social distances. There are no large gatherings and people go back to work and to school. It’s not like I want to run that experiment and some, you know, wild, crazy like killing people like wildfire way. I’m curious, though, if at this point people are wary enough and have taken the disease seriously enough that they could actually create a lot of prevention within those parameters. I should add, of course, that we also need to be washing our hands constantly if we’re out and about, and that screening and testing and contact tracing are part of that picture. But I wonder if we could do those things and have more activity safely than we currently do.
S5: The school in the workplace part, they were in that medium section. That’s a problem. So we know that if you if you want to get if you’ve got one, you have the best chance of having an infection. Basically hold a Zumba class inside a meatpacking plants. Right. And so when really allowed land and then. Right.
S4: With the nursing. With a nursing home.
S7: Well, with old people, a lot of you have to die as well as. Yes. If the illness. Yeah.
S8: So. But so that’s the worst case. But the work and the school tricky problem is, is while the group of people who are there might not be in the in the older population, the chance that it spreads in those kinds of environments is higher than, say, if you’re outside. So it just wearing a mask, as I understand it from my reading this week, masks are basically for when you’re where you can stay six feet apart and you’re just in conversation.
S9: But if you’re in if you’re in a work environment where it can hang around on surfaces and you’re relatively close to people, I’m not sure that the masks and that is going to is going to help you. And that’s what hasn’t been cracked. Now, this gets back to your point about testing and tracing and isolating. And the problem is that we’re still so far behind that basically the Harvard researchers who have said some of the standards for the number of daily testing say that we’re basically a third of the way behind where we should be in order to get to the what you’re talking about, Emily, which is that there’s a third of the way to just start experimenting with work and school.
S8: And so it goes back to this sort of core failure of testing and the lack of kind of hair on fire effort to get better testing. I mean, I know they’ve done some things. But still, it’s just we’re just still so far behind the proper testing, tracing and isolation.
S4: Well, there’s also this this thing which just maddens me so much that we saw this week, which is that a bunch of states, Texas, Vermont and Virginia for sure, are muddling their testing data. So they’re combining results of antibody tests and sort of active case tests and which just makes a total hash of the data. You have a state like Georgia where the the data they’re putting out is completely untrustworthy. They put out a chart in Georgia, which seemed to show declining case loads. The reason it showed declining caseload is they just flipped a bunch of dates on the chart where they had April 25th, follow May 5th on the calendar, like if you put April 25th, where May six should be. That made the caseload decline look better. You have Florida firing their head of data for being transparent, refusing to admit manipulate data. You have the White House releasing that Kubic model, which suggested that covered 19 deaths would go to zero by May 15th, which, as you may have noticed, they did not. And so there’s this way in which data, which is supposed to be the tool that informs policymaking, hasn’t said become this piece of propaganda. Like, if you if you fudged the data, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t dying. It doesn’t mean that the people, the dead people earning less dead or that fewer people are infected. It just means, you know, less. You’ve made yourself stupider and you’ve made your policy decisions stupider because you have chosen to be dishonest about it. And it’s it’s pretty frustrating, like, to have such a level of of dishonesty and unwillingness to face reality, delusion, willful delusion that we’re practicing around it. That is maddening. I dump my mind, though. I mind the the just the patchwork nature of it, much less than I mind the willful stupidity that accompanies the patchwork nature of it, led, of course, by the president.
S6: Well, also because if you’re a juking your data and then it appears are cases are declining, then you also praise yourself over that. And what’s happening in our makes other states think that it’s safe to do things that perhaps it’s not actually safe to do.
S8: Well, that’s the way in which the federal. So to your point, they also the precondition for economic activity returning to a healthy level is certainty. And so when you politicize data, you create fights over expertise. You turn the normal imprecision of prediction into a sign of bad faith. When you do all those things, you corrode certainty. And even the potential for certainty, which is the precondition for economic behavior. So if you really cared about getting everybody back in a consumer economy, you would be extremely rigorous about the kind of information you were putting out at the federal level, even if you wanted to. 50 flowers to bloom. You would use the federal level as a clearinghouse to say here’s where it’s working. Well, in Florida, despite a lot of early criticism. The following things are working well in Florida. But be careful. We can take this lesson from Florida and map it onto 50 other states. But there are idiosyncrasies about Florida that you wouldn’t want to overread. You would. You would you could use the national platform as a way to kind of sift and sort and develop a phrase I hate, but best practices for reopening in a way that increased certainty and confidence that would go towards your larger economic goal, which is getting everybody to feel like, OK, we’re taking practical, reasonable steps to go forward. And yet the the madness is working in a totally opposite direction of that.
S4: Right. That’s a that’s a very well put. John, I was thinking, you know, there’s news out of China that there’s demand for oil is way back up in China. There is this sense that China may be headed for more of a V shaped recovery. And I felt I feel like what the pub, given the nature of the policies, were pursuing the failures and testing the absolute abject abandonment of the issue at the presidential and federal level, that we’re going to have an L. Shaped recovery, which is that we can have this drop. And then basically there is going to be no recovery. We’re just going to link the long limp along for a very, very long time. And and ultimately, also, the Congress is going to get impatient with providing the funds needed to to to keep people boogied and keep them surviving through this period. And that’s also going to create sort of a continuing lingering depression. It really depresses me.
S6: So what does that statistic that even if 80 percent comes back, that’s still the level of the Great Depression like. That’s right. Really ducting to me.
S4: Yeah. I mean, you can think about huge industries that we’ve talked about, restaurants, air travel, international travel, international tourism, sports. Those are just not going to exist in the forms that we are accustomed to having them for at least a couple of years. International travelers. That’s it. That’s a couple of years before people are going to trust that. That’s a huge amount of activity, economic. Givati, it’s gonna be dreadful for the country. The Emily, I want to talk a little bit about the president taking hydroxy Clora Queen or Quine, if you are going to take an unproven medicine. What would you take? I think I would take some, like, life extender. One of the things would be they live longer, maybe feel maybe something. It builds muscle like some bogus thing. There’s some Bogarts and I could take. Yeah, it’s steroids. Sure. I would not take them antimalarial drug.
S6: And isn’t it isn’t that drug. Doesn’t it have sometimes the side effects of like making it hard to sleep and giving people weird dreams and even like vision also heart issues.
S4: I remember as a kid I took the malaria drug when we traveled in Egypt and it was a nightmare. It was terrible.
S6: I also took some drugs and we went to Africa. That made us have a really weird dreams years ago. And I feel like they’re all in this family anyway.
S5: I I find that all all juniper based on things that I ingest, give me weird dreams.
S4: Yes. Gin madness. Gin madness. That is is. But does it matter? The president’s doing this. I mean, is it is it is it an outrage? Is it tragic? Is it going to cause some sort of greater distress or is it just like. Oh, yeah, we know he is he’s a delusional, an irrational person.
S6: And further confirmation of that, I mean, as long as it doesn’t continue to have other people take this drug in a way that makes it unavailable to people who need it, I really don’t care.
S5: Well, I mean, as a public health matter, when the president is undermining the masks and advice by saying, you know, I’m not going to wear it, but then is taking this let’s just call it a risky approach, although it’s been prescribed. I think it’s true that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson took it when they were being treated in Australia as so. But at the very.
S4: That was three months ago, though, John.
S5: Yeah, sure. Three months ago. Sure. Sure, sure. I guess my point is that on the one hand, the president is willing to take these extraordinary measures, which gives you implicit in that, it seems to me, is the idea that even if you’re the president, the United States and everybody around you is wearing a mask, you still are worried enough about it that you might that you’re doing this thing that is a little bit extraordinary, which kind of undermines his whole public message, which is basically let’s all get back to normal life is just another beat in kind of a disconnect between the way the president sees the world and the way the experts around him see the world.
S4: I would like to spend one final minute on the World Health Organization. There was a spat this week where the president threatened to pull the United States out of this organization, which is the UN’s public health global arm, and where president declined an invitation to speak at their global assembly, leaving an opening for Xi Jinping to come in, step in, give a speech and pledge two billion dollars, which is twice as much as what the U.S. was going to give to the World Health Organization anyway, from China, particularly to help in Africa and other places that are really suffering from cover 19 but don’t have the health infrastructure. It seems to me such a strange self-inflicted wound that it’s it’s certainly the case. I’m sure the World Health Organization mishandled the early days of the pandemic and that it’s also the case, as the president says, that China was not transparent about it.
S3: But. So what is the entity that could make the pandemic shorter and less painful and eat? I don’t even understand what the strategy is here if the strategy is to weaken China. He’s done the opposite. He’s given China an opening to step up on the world stage and to be a benevolent, you know, giver of billions of dollars and a supporter of of the international order and a helper of of struggling countries. He’s weakened the United States relative to China. He’s pissed off our allies. And he’s made the it more likely the pandemic stretches longer. If you weaken the World Health Organization, it’s the it’s the entity that is best able to help stop this thing in the parts of the world that don’t have strong public health infrastructure. So what the heck is going on there, Emily? What is the point?
S6: I don’t see any real strategy. I mean, what I find very persuasive in this is the idea that if you really wanted to take on China, you would knit your alliances with the rest of the world as closely as possible and make them feel close to you. Keep them close. Make them feel taken care of. Like that would be the way to confront that threat. And that’s the opposite of what we’re doing. We’re just unraveling the international fabric. And I mean, it just seems isolationist in a kind of old fashioned way. And I guess it’ll just depend how long it goes on for. I mean, the United States is an enormous player internationally, but one really wonders if this continues, if we will come out of this with kind of very diminished international status. That will both. You know, if you if you’re right about your L shaped recovery and we do this, like, then we will have changed the order of nations internationally.
S4: Oh, I feel really strongly that this is this is the moment like this is this is like Britain after World War One, where Britain goes into World War One as the probably the great power and leaves it clearly second to the United States, which is stepped up, which has financed the war, which has not been nearly so damaged. Its reputation as a damaged it hasn’t lost millions of men in battle. And and the United States takes its place as the world leader. I think this is the moment that that is happening to the world order. Absolutely. And China will come out of this much stronger because of it.
S9: I mean, the short answer is the reason the president’s doing is it diverts from his own response, which is, you know, he basically the job of the president is to protect the American people. Is the job of the federal government in these pandemics is to participate fully. The reason we know that is because they did so many exercises about how to handle just such a pandemic. In his administration and in the previous ones, they were exercises at the federal level with an administration response. So he’s he’s diverting from that. The problem is that even if there is a really first of all, there’s an interesting substantive question about being soft on China. The W8 show, as I understand it, was having to play this delicate balance, which is on the one hand, they needed China to step up and manage this problem. So if they embarrass China, they worried that it would. They worried that it might cause China to close up or just not participate in what needs to be a global response. That’s maybe baloney. But it’s an interesting idea that I’d like some expert to weigh in on. The reason it’s interesting is not just with respect to understanding what the WHL posture was, but it would perhaps give the president an explanation for why he repeatedly and publicly said that his conversations with Xi Jinping told him that China was on it, that China was being transparent, that China was was handling the issue. The most extraordinary day is the 7th of February. He did this repeatedly during the early stages of the pandemic. But on the 7th of February, when the doctor who was trying to warn the world about the dangers of Kovik dies in China, the president says that China’s on it and that they’re being transparent.
S8: So this might be a tough defense for the president who was after having run as somebody who had a unique in 2016, who had a unique understanding of China’s duplicity, was repeatedly saying China was on this. Imagine during the Cold War if John Kennedy had said, you know, we confronted the Russians with these missiles they’re sending to Cuba. But but they’re on it. They tell it’s it’s good. And we’re going to we’re going to just let them take care of it, like the trust but verify posture that was so for so long. A part of presidential rigorousness was totally blown out the window with with China. And by making it now look like simply a diversion from the tardiness of the administration response. You take what might be a reasonable criticism. WHL turn it into a purely political diversion tactic, which then robs it of its salience, which then goes back to your point, both of you, which is then China waltzes in and says here we’re going to participate here. Now we are our model and our response allows us to be in a posture to help the world because there has to be a global response and the Americans are just spending their time minting excuses and not delivering what the kind of what the world needs, which compounds the original problem. It’s really one to watch for the next chapter in this and to see if your prediction comes true. David, about the kind of global post Cauvin positioning.
S4: Time will tell. Gabfest listeners, if you are a slate plus member, you get bonus segments on the guy vest and we’re into a bonus segment today, we’re gonna talk about what we’ve seen online, videos that we’ve seen in particular that have really moved us or helped us or inspired us or delighted us during amused can we have any hands and amused us.
S4: And instructed and and instructed. Blah, blah, blah. Okay. Yeah. Richard Burr, the Republican senator from North Carolina, had his cell phone seized by the FBI last week.
S3: They got a search warrant to seize his phone because he is accused of potential insider trading. Burr also stepped down as the chair of a Senate Intelligence Committee or he stepped aside for the moment if the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee while this investigation unfolds. He is one of four senators accused of potentially using insider knowledge about the pandemic, early warnings about the pandemic to then dump stocks and in at least one case of another center to buy stocks that looked like they might surge with a pandemic. So. Emily, you have this episode Burse sold. Essentially, what happens is BRX gets a series as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee gets a series of briefings which are not exactly classified, but they’re they’re getting him early information about what’s happening in China, about the threat of the virus, about what might happen. At the same time, he’s talking publicly, in fact, even writing publicly about about boosting the stock market and saying that the economy’s in good shape. And in mid-February, shortly after receiving a series of briefings, he dumped a whole lot of stock just before the markets started to tank. It is suspicious enough that the FBI and the Department Justice were able to get a search warrant to get his phone to see if he was doing something untoward. It is obviously disgusting to think that a senator is trading off of this kind of information and is making a profit off the pandemic, as it were. Is it a crime, though?
S1: Yeah, it could be. It, I think, is going to be hard to prove. So in 2012, Congress passed the STOCK Act and the STOCK Act says that Congress, members of Congress, cannot trade on information that they only know about because of their official position, but they can own and trade stock. So the problem for prosecutors is how do you prove that Richard Burr was trading based on those briefings he was getting and not just like reading the newspaper. That’s why they want a cell phone. I guess they want to see if they can see messages he sent. I mean, if he was dumb enough to say, like, hey, this briefing today, we’ve got to dump that and pick up this, like, that would be really amazing. But maybe they can see things that are timed in a way that would make it suspicious. I think it’s gonna be hard to prove, though, and this is part of the problem we’ve been seeing tied to the Supreme Court’s decision in the case. We talked about, I think, last week about Governor McDonnell and Virginia just making it harder to prosecute corruption. That’s one problem. And then the second problem is the specificity of the statute in terms of what members of Congress are allowed and not allowed to do. When you really start to think about it, it’s pretty hard to see how you can have robust protections against some form of insider trading for Congress unless they just can’t trade stock on their own at all, which is the rule for an executive branch official. And before Byrd did this, he was trading stock on medical devices, which is absolutely an industry that he was also involved in regulating. And I just I was thinking one defense he could have is like, well, I just do this all the time, which is really not the way it should be.
S4: All right. There’s this other example which didn’t even come up this week. But I, I read this during the intercept about David Perdue, the Republican senator from Georgia, who received a ton of stock options before he was a senator and a company, a financial services data company when he was elected senator. That company then extended the period in which he could exercise the options so he wouldn’t normally upon becoming a senator, he would have had to disgorge the options.
S3: He would have been able to make money, but they extended it. So he was able to make literally millions, six million dollars on these options that he had in this company. And it’s an industry that he, as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, regulates like and in particular the thing that they do. He regulates and helped deregulate to their advantage. And he made billions of dollars. But it’s it’s not there’s nothing remotely like a crime there. It’s just gross. It’s disgusting.
S5: One of the things that makes Burr’s case different, perhaps from Senator Loffler of Georgia, whose husband, by the way, just gave a million dollars to a pro Trump superPAC. Is that BRZ brother in law, Gerald Fouth also made trades, according to ProPublica, on the same day, which is where the cell phone might be. In other words, you may not have called your broker. That might have been done through some other way, but the call to the brother in law might be part of a fact pattern that they’re examining. That’s a way in which his case is different from Loffler or Dianne Feinstein, who also made a series of trades, or she said her husband made those trades. But I have a question about, well, why can’t senators just be forced to put things in a trust that they have no control over and that they get back when they when they leave the Senate?
S1: They could be they would just have to pass that law.
S5: Because you would it seems to me here is it’s not it’s there’s the question of whether you’re doing something illegal. And that’s bad, obviously. But then there’s the other thing, which is that the larger point, which is that here we are in this moment of excruciating pain for a vast amount of America directly, economically and then psychologically. And what you see then is basically people in power who are making decisions, whether they’re doing it legally or illegally benefiting from the churn in the market. That’s a result of these things where. Churn is destroying people’s lives or significantly upending them. And so just in that sense, it exacerbates the underlying inequities people feel in the system. And so as not to contribute to the undermining. You should do it for that purpose alone.
S1: Absolutely. I mean, the judicial branch, the notion that appearance of impropriety is itself an ethics problem as well as actual impropriety is really familiar.
S3: So part of me thinks, OK, well well, the public is when the public hears about cases like this, people get really angry. And I and Kelly Loffler, the senator from Georgia who was appointed to fill out a term and is now going to be running in a special election to continue to hold that seat, may be the great case study here where her her approval ratings are in the tank. She is getting hammered, according to polling, in that special election in Georgia. She will lose that seat. And, you know, there may be plenty of other reasons, but it is. It’s when you look at the coverage of it, is that her opponents are hitting her hard on this, profiting from the pandemic piece of it. And the public does get disgusted. On the other hand, look at what President Trump has done using his own businesses, making money off of his own businesses and office public does not seem to held President Trump or anyone in his administration accountable for this. And I don’t understand. You know, the public is going to hold people accountable.
S1: I mean, corruption could be a powerful theme for Joe Biden to run on, though, of course, Trump has tried to muddy the waters by going after Biden on the same ground with charisma. Well, we don’t know that the public doesn’t care about this with President Trump. There is this feeling we’ve become numb to it because there’ve been so many instances of it.
S4: Yeah. This secretly profiting off a national catastrophe. It seems to me to be beyond about as bad as it gets. And I don’t know why these people should be ashamed if they did it. And they should all all be flogged in the public square for it.
S1: Can I make one more systemic point? Do you remember the whole discussion at the Supreme Court about how agencies write regulations and like whether Congress should be effectively writing much more detailed statutes rather than just like saying to agencies, here you go with fill in the details. So part of that whole very earnest discussion about what’s called the non delegation doctrine. And is Congress delegating too much power? The agency is is this very earnest set of assertions by Justice Gorsuch, among other people that, like Congress, should be writing these laws?
S7: Well, you look at that STOCK Act and the degree to which that is so difficult to prove that a congressman profited illegally off of something he or she did. It just seems like having Congress write more of these laws rather than career professionals is a terrible idea, like they are writing the laws that then allow them to buy stock and medical device companies and make lots of money.
S1: Or the senator produ example you gave John.
S4: I want to actually come back to a point that you nipped at a few minutes ago, which is Kelly Loffler is a conservative Republican, as Richard Burr is a pretty conservative Republican. There’s a difference between the two of them. Kelly Loffler, as you mentioned, has been a very clear and consistent supporter, President Trump and the things that matter to President Trump. And as you say, her husband just gave a big donation to a pro Trump superPAC. Richard Burr has been a a burr in the side of the president. He has, as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been pretty good about beat Duke, Kentucky. Dana, reasonable investigations of the Russian interference in the election and hasn’t always covered up the things that the president might want to cover up. And there is some. Concern that this extremely politicized Department of Justice that President Trump is running is picking and choosing who it wants to prosecute and that the president is using his his power and the way that autocrat’s often do to target an enemy and go easy on a friend. Is that something that we should actually worry about?
S5: Oh, I think. Sure. I mean, we we do know is that Loffler has talked to the FBI. So so we should have some. We may have some way to distinguish between the two cases. Again, if BRS got if there’s something on those cell phones and Emily can speak to this, but getting the warrant in the first place to take the cell phones seems like the probable cause. There was there was something special going on that might be distinguishing between him and Loffler, which would give you a substantive reason for the treatment to be different rather than the political one you point to. It’s clear that the president in public has suggested using the law enforcement arm as a tool of his own personal political preferences. So what you’re asserting could sound shocking, except that it’s just a reaffirmation of the way the president has explicitly said he believes the justice system should work.
S8: Burr has been and he asked that Russia in meddling in the election investigation be declassified. And that’s still an open question out there, which is interesting. The final tiny little thing I would say is that in that North Carolina race, there isn’t. There is an interesting law in North Carolina that essentially, I think as I understand it, basically, if Burr resigns with more than 60 days from this year’s general election, then voters will pick a new senator in 2020. If he doesn’t, then even if he resigns, a Republican will be appointed. Even though there’s a Democratic governor in North Carolina, a Republican would be put in the seat because of the way because of a law in North Carolina, which means that Republican would hold that seat for two more years till the 2022 election, as opposed to having an election in 2020 in which Democrats might pick up the seat. Tell us who’s running in the next election is under some heat. He’s a Republican. Might be being by Kay Hagan, was a Democrat from that state. So it’ll be very interesting when if Burr has to resign, when that would take place relative to whether Mitch McConnell stays majority leader or not after the 2020 elections. I mean, that’s you’ve got to have a bunch of things happen. But that’s an that’s a wrinkle here that’s worth keeping an eye on.
S3: State Department Inspector General Steve Linnik was cashiered by President Trump on Friday night. He is the fifth, I think, inspector general or acting inspector general who has been bounced by the president in the last month or so. Usually these inspector generals are independent investigators who root out wrongdoing in a department or an agency, and they have the power to issue reports and find corruption and find wrongdoing. And they’ve been very useful over the years. If you were somebody who doesn’t like waste, fraud and abuse in government, then an inspector general is somebody you want to have in a doing a good job. But the swamp is of the Trump administration knows no bounds. And President Trump has been replacing these watchdogs with lapdogs. He’s been bringing in people who are known to be very sympathetic to him to fill these positions in the case of Oleynik. Well, we’ll get to what he may have been investigating. Emily, I want to start with the overall question, which what what is the value of an inspector general? And is it reasonable to expect that the president would allow an inspector general to operate who basically is simply a gadfly, troubling his own administration?
S1: So inspectors general multiplied as watchdogs after Watergate, and the idea was that you needed people who were within the agency’s but independent from them to watch over for fraud, waste, corruption, abuse, like all the stuff that is all them, all the close in the cracks that we the taxpayers shouldn’t have to put up with. They have, by and large, remained independent. And are those sort of quasi kinds of officials where, sure, you serve at the pleasure of the president and you can get fired. But there were these norms that you didn’t normally fire people on that it was pretty customary for people to go from administration to administration. They were in the kind of career professional class rather than political appointees, even though they were selected by the president and they weren’t to be messed with because the idea was that it would look terrible if you went and fired your inspector general. Right. When they were looking into whether you were, you know, using an employee to run errands or bypassing Congress and illegally selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which is what supposedly Linnik was investigating with Pompeo, like so many norms, we’ve kind of lost this. And then what you end up with are a class of officials who are anonymous in the sense that, like nobody knows their names until they kind of have this moment in the spotlight in which they’re being fired, often late on a Friday when there’s very little news. And it turns out that there aren’t direct political consequences if you’re willing to be shameless and that this is like one more sort of, you know, log you just kind of tat. It’s not a toss on the fire and watch burn in terms of like the integrity of the government. Once you start firing them, you think like, why did anyone put up with these independent, pesky people who are, you know, showing that the government is screwing up and, you know, doing corrupt things in various ways?
S3: Yeah. I want to get into that, John, because one of the things that it’s been so confounding to me is that Trump very effectively ran on this idea of drain the swamp and he was able to point out various kinds of sleaziness that regularly took place in Washington that we all knew took place in Washington. And yet. He’s done literally nothing, and he’s been it has been the most corrupt presidency I can imagine. And I’m somebody who doesn’t even get that worked up about corruption. It’s just been extraordinarily corrupt. And yet it doesn’t it doesn’t seem to have deterred him. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him. Oh, maybe I should. Maybe I should do some high profile rooting out corruption or rooting out waste and abuse. And that would benefit me. Why? Why is there such a disconnect between this very successful rhetoric he ran on and the actuality of of the presidency? Why has me bothered with it?
S10: The short answer is that draining the swamp doesn’t mean the same thing for the president, his and his supporters that it means for us. I this is one of the things that I’ve that I have to learn in covering this administration that you’d think I would have learned after the first big mistake I made, which was after years and years of of interviewing voters, of evangelical voters who talked about the character and personal behaviors of candidates being the disqualifying characteristic, if it was bad for the presidency to then see them vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. You’d think after learning that there was that disconnect, I would have seen this disconnect. But I spent a lot of time pinning down candidate Trump about the idea of lobbyists when he was running. I said. So you’re pledging not to have any lobbyists or people who donated to your campaign work in your administration. And he said, oh, yeah, sure. So I thought, aha. I’ve got him on the record. Ha. Well, he’s now got hundreds of people who were former lobbyists in key positions in his administration so that draining the swamp doesn’t take place in that instance either. So baseless.
S4: Well, what does it mean to his supporters? What does that actually mean then?
S10: What it means to Trump’s supporters in terms of draining the swamp is essentially getting rid of anyone. In fact, getting rid of the inspectors general is draining the swamp because you’re getting rid of the people who are part of the pyramid, permanent bureaucracy or the administrative state, which is a longstanding Republican. I mean, this is what basically Nixon wanted to do.
S9: It’s this idea that there is a permanent bureaucracy that’s the swamp and and that they are the ones who need to be kicked out. It’s not the influence peddlers who are paid to maximize the advantage of government action for their narrow interests. But in fact, it’s the people who work for the government who are the swamp, and they’re the ones who need to be removed.
S4: Oh, God, that’s so tragic. I that’s I hadn’t even somehow I had never managed to put those two points together in my head. And you’re so right. And it’s so depressing and it’s so backwards. Emily, let’s talk a little bit about what Pompeo is accused of. So so he is the obviously the secretary of state. And Steve Linnik, the inspector general, was apparently looking into two particular things. And there’s also a third charge as well. One is that Pompeya was using his staff to run personal errands to do his dry cleaning and to walk his dog plus life. Same thing. And for his wife, too, is that he refused to cooperate with Lennox investigation into whether the Trump administration basically trumped up and had an emergency in quotes in order to get around a congressional restriction preventing them from selling arms to Saudi Arabia. And I guess the UAE and that Pompeya was just like, I’m not going to help you out with that three. Is that Pompei? I was holding very lavish dinners at the State Department to advance his own career, which were not really about foreign diplomats and foreign officials.
S1: Right. Now, NBC has the invitation list. They’re like 500 people on it. Only 14 percent of them are people who would seem to be the people who would invite to your dinners. And they were harvesting the contact list and sending them to Pompeii’s wife’s personal e-mail, which looked like building a donor base into the future.
S7: Yeah. Can I. I so wanted to nurse. I love the dinners.
S4: I think the dinners are 100 percent his job. But let’s let’s talk about the rest of the stuff is what Pompeii’s is doing. Is that inspector general investigation worthy?
S1: Sure. I mean, that’s what inspectors general do. They go in and see if you’re wasting taxpayer dollars and breaking the law in other ways? I mean, we don’t know that the inspector general is about to conclude or would conclude that Pompeo did those things, but that’s absolutely in their purview. I will also note that this particular inspector general was extremely critical of Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email server back in the day. So, you know, there’s this way in which, like when you are a real watchdog, you drive everybody crazy who is in power and that’s your job.
S4: The I wanted to stop and defend these dinner. So the what Pumphouse seems to have done is he’s had dozens of dinners, dozens of small dinners during over the course of his tenure as secretary of state. About 500 people have been invited. As you say, NBC got the whole guest list. The guest list include a lot of conservative media personalities, a lot of Republican donors, some sports celebrities, some kind of distinguished historians generally of a conservative bent and then some foreign diplomats and other people who the secretary of state would naturally deal with in their course of business. And he’s Pompeo and his wife are hosting these events. They call them the Madison Dinners Cat. Do not sit on my tape recorder, Cat. Keep that in place. The cat the cat is about to step on my tape recorder. Go away.
S7: Go Cat Cat’s meow. I ever call your cats by their names.
S4: This one’s named Timmy. The other was named Tulip.
S3: Anyway, so these Madson dinners taking place in the State Department’s lavish rooms, taking advantage of the the budget entertainment budget, the State Department and an NBC cases, oh, well, only 14 percent of the invitees are diplomats and other foreign officials. What a waste. And my view is absolutely not. This is the purpose of the secretary of state, is to evangelize America to the world. We have a whole department of public diplomacy. It used to be the U.S. information agency. Now it’s just public diplomacy. The job of the secretary of state is to get people representing America’s interests and to represent America’s interests to foreign governments. And it seems to me beyond reasonable for Pompeo to be hosting people, even people, even if most of the guests are not foreign diplomats, to host them and to get Fox News personalities mouthing administration foreign policy talking points. That seems like a really valuable thing to do. Now, I don’t happen to hold a truck with Fox News personalities. The administration’s foreign policy talking points are not the ones that I want advanced. But the idea that the secretary of state would use these very influential people, both donors and and media personalities and historians, to have a conversation where he represents America’s interests in America’s foreign policy interests and uses them to then multiply that as a force multiplier. And to spread the word about that seems to me 100 percent reasonable. That’s what the secretary of state should do.
S11: So what’s the value that these all these American sort of stars of different sorts are evangelizing about American foreign policy? To the very small number of foreign diplomats that I know, there are two things.
S4: One is you’re impressing these foreign diplomats. You bring the ambassador for Saudi from Saudi Arabia, you bring the E.U. ambassador and you dazzle them with American celebrity and with fine intellectual conversation. You have a you have a sparkling salon dinner where people are very impressed. And the Saudi ambassador is like, I love America, great job, America. And and you make some case to the Saudi ambassador about something. And so you actually are impressing on the Saudi ambassador, who’s your effectively your guest of honor at that dinner that that she is you know, she’s valued and she’s important. And that’s that’s a good thing. Secondly, you bring in Laura Ingram. You bring in the other. I’m not sure which other Fox personalities. And you talk up in you again. You have the sparkling salon dinner where you make the case like, oh, it now is the time to really for Israel to annex the territory in the West Bank. And let me let me explain this and let me have the ambassador from Israel explain why this is right. And then Laura Ingram goes out on Fox News and talks about how the it’s time for Israel to annex the West Bank. And you’ve advanced the U.S. foreign policy interest like it seems a relatively cheap way, in fact, to multiply, to be a force multiplier, to make a louder megaphone for what the U.S. is trying to accomplish.
S11: So there are some rules in the government try to separate the business of the government from the business of campaigning. Do you care about the classes, not let them?
S4: Yes. Oh, he’s right. Sorry. I’m sorry to interrupt you. Go ahead, Emily.
S7: No, no, it’s quite all right because you’re about to agree with me. You. No, that part’s lazy.
S3: It’s totally. And he’s totally doing it. Like, I’m not saying that that what he’s is I’m not saying that is his main goal is to advance American foreign policy interests. I think his main goal, and this is a history that Pompeo has, is to advance his own political interests. And Susan Pompeo is a very effective partner in that. And no, it’s it’s gross that they’re using it to collect personal email contacts and that they’re going to hit up. You know, Ken Langone for million dollar donations when he runs for when Pompeya runs for Senate or president.
S11: OK. So then what does. Then if you’re troubled by that sleazy underbelly and you think that’s probably the main purpose of the donors, should we, the taxpayers be paying for that? And why? Can he have his own dinners in his own house with his own money, if that’s what he’s doing?
S4: Well, I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that that’s the main purpose. I’m saying for. I’m not saying it. It probably is in Pompeii, his own head. And Susan Pumphouse had the main purpose is to play this long game to help their political career. Yes, but does that mean that it’s that it’s not worth several hundred thousand dollars in taxpayer money? That is creating these other benefits for the country? No, I think it probably is worth it.
S7: And we were just talking about the appearance. It’s a two variety sleaziness.
S11: And like people’s perception of the government is corrupt. Seems like this relates back to but this doesn’t end as I was 10 months ago, but still doesn’t seem corrupt.
S4: It doesn’t seem I mean, all pop every person in public office is constantly doing things that simultaneously advance their personal career and advance policy interests they’re trying to pursue in their job.
S11: I, I find that argument so defeating because it suggests that, like, just that the job of being a politician is sleazy in this way and there is no distinction to be made. And so we should just expect of our public officials that they would use taxpayer money to hold these kinds of events that are of this kind of political benefit to that. I mean, you just called it sleazy a couple months ago. So, like, sleazy is OK and fine and even beneficial to the country. And corrupt is some other thing. Like, I’m confused.
S10: And and the distinction is level of sleaze. I mean, we know and have known since the beginning of the republic that there’s a there’s a relationship between personal ambition and public service. That was one of my favorite parts of the constitutional convention is given or more is saying you have to allow for ambition or your presidents are going to are going to do even more extraordinary things because they’re going to want to feed their ambition. And so you have it. We allow some amount of ambition, pure straightup ambition to fuel people in public service. So the question is, does it get to be too much? And in the Pompeo case, you’re balancing it against all that other stuff David articulated. So maybe that’s 85 percent of what he’s doing and 15 percent his ambition. You don’t want ambition to get to 30, but maybe 15. Okay. Maybe gets to 20, OK. The inspector general should look into all this. But as long as it’s on the right side of that line, the fact that there’s ambition driving what he’s doing, it doesn’t seem awful in the insider trading case. The ambition is for personal aggrandizement and money grubbing, not feeding your ambition through public service, which is presumably what the list that Pompeya was putting together was for. So, you know, is it the greatest thing in the world? No, but it’s been written into public service basically since the founding of this moment in time.
S1: I would just like to have some clear lines about corruption. I would like to air on the side of less corruption rather than more. And I don’t mean to say that in a facile, annoying way, just that when we’re in these situations with the appearance of impropriety at a moment where faith in government is low, I think we want to try to hold public officials to a higher standard whenever we can.
S9: Right. Except for the downside is you make the standard so brittle that nobody enforces it ever at all. Like if if every other secretary of state has had these dinners, then you make it look like, well, wait, you’re just punt. You’re being super punctilious about this thing when there are bigger fish to fry and you lose the ability to catch the bigger fish because everybody thinks, oh, well, everything is wrong, so therefore nothing is wrong. I mean, I’m not I’m just there’s a brittleness that can get in when you when you seek total perfection in all behavior, when you know it’s gonna be there’s gonna be some part of it that’s about personal ambition.
S1: That’s totally fair. But internally at the State Department, people raised questions about these dinners and whether so it does, that suggests that this wasn’t a common practice of previous secretaries of state.
S8: I totally agree 100 percent. And the IJI should look into it to adjudicate just the questions we’re batting around.
S4: I personally was distracted when you said Gouverneur Morris. I’ve looked at that guy’s name for years and always thought it was Governor Morris and it was just one of those odd spellings. You’re telling me they pronounce it Governor?
S10: No, I don’t. I don’t know how they did. I might be totally wrong.
S4: Beth, listeners, please let us know if there are any any great ideological historians who know the right answer.
S5: My favorite quote about him on this question was he said, we shouldn’t shut the civil road to glory, which was his argument for allowing ambition in office, because if you shut the civil road to glory, they would try and grab that glory through other means.
S4: Weirdly, he said glory. Let us go to cocktail chatter when you’re having governors and governors for over first socially distance drink in your back garden. Emily Lawn. Well, you’d be chattering about to them.
S1: I had a totally gobsmacked moment from a news story this week. Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe in Roe vs. Wade, famously became a huge opponent of abortion rights after being the plaintiff in that case. And it’s long been. Sorry of a change of heart. That was all about the idea that Norma McCorvey had decided that abortion was wrong, that she regretted the role she’d played, that this was, you know, a terrible travesty, that the constitutional right to an abortion was established from her case. She is in a documentary which will air this Friday, and she gives what she calls a deathbed confession in which she says that she changed her mind because she was paid. The quote is paid by anti-abortion groups. The quote is, I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say. It was all an act. I did it well, too. I’m a good actress. She also said about her own views about abortion. Quote, If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice. This is a big deal because it’s just been this kind of foundational myth of the anti-abortion movement. And I just kind of honestly couldn’t believe it. It was the the rare news story that just like shook me because Norma McCorvey is conversion has really mattered in politics. And the idea that it was all an act and she was getting paid to take the stance is, is it was to me, she say I paid her. Yes. She was paid by, she said, anti-abortion groups, including Operation Rescue, which was the group, especially in the 80s, that was the most radical in the sense that it was calling for any means necessary to stop abortion, basically. And in that sense was tied to some killings of abortion providers.
S4: John, what is your chatter?
S10: I have three very quick book related chapters. One is I’ve been rediscovering Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss, which I’ve liked for a long time. I may have even chattered about it, but I just it’s it’s just a it’s a great book. It’s a bite sized lessons about life. But the questions that set up those lessons, I really like that, too. Yeah. The thing is, the audio book of these troops by Jill Lapore is and has been my running companion ever, you know, for the last nine weeks. And she really reads it well. And it’s a great book. And then finally, as my own little book, which comes out the 16th of June, you can get a signed book plate by me. I’ve been so touched by all the gab fest listeners who’ve already sent me emails asking for them. And so anybody out there who would like a signed book plate, just go to John Dickerson dot com and click the preorder button and all the instructions will be there for you. But to those who’ve already sent notes, it was just another reminder of how wonderful our gab fest listeners are. They are they just say the sweetest things about the show and said everything. It’s great.
S1: Can we say two or super excited to talk with you about your book in a few weeks?
S10: Oh, my gosh. Me too. I can’t. I can’t wait.
S4: Late breaking news from Bridget, a researcher. The most probable incorrect pronunciation comes from Abigail Adams, who is known genetic writings. She wrote his name as governor here.
S10: Oh, gosh. Governor governing year.
S1: OK, so you could be a real pedantic award by knowing that and using that in a sentence.
S4: All right. My chatter. Two quick ones. One is I realize that my favorite kind of popular culture is art created about beautiful Irish people falling in love. And there’s bittersweetness. So I love the movie once. It’s one of my favorite movies. I adore the movie Brooklyn, which even though it’s called Brooklyn, is really about Irish people are largely about Irish people and now normal people. I’m the last person in the world to come to this great novel which has been turned into Hulu. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Hulu TV series about a gorgeous couple and their protracted relationship. And it’s.
S3: I loved it. I loved it. Loved it. So I cannot recommend normal people. The TV show highly enough. And then secondly, just saw a one of the few bright sides. This terrible catastrophe we’re all living through the air in Asia has been so dirty because there’s so much activity, so many people moving around. And so we keep on making things and so much pollution and power plants powering their factories and so forth, that it’s quite unpleasant to live in a lot of Asian cities. If you have any kind of respiratory problem and there was news this week that in Katmandu, Nepal, capital of Nepal, Mt. Everest was visible for the first time in a generation from Kathmandu. Mt. Everest is about 200 miles, two kilometers excuse me, away from Katmandu. And it hasn’t because of the pollution, just hasn’t been visible. But since there is such a drop in pollution because we are not traveling and not making things, there are these incredible, stunning photos that people have taken of Mt. Everest from this massive distance. And the one sort of public policy point I would make about this is there is this historical example of Beijing which really reduced its pollution before the 2008 Olympics. And the people of Beijing loved it. They were so happy. And what happened was that after the Olympics, when pollution started to rise again, there was a real discontent, a popular discontent. And Beijing has made a massive effort to have a war on pollution, and it’s cut its pollution drastically. This is talked about on a good 99 percent invisible podcast the other week. Beijing is now a much cleaner city to live in. So this is this could be what might happen is that people might discover, hey, it’s nice to live in a city where I don’t have to cough and I can go outside and I’m not I don’t have asthma and my children are developing terrible respiratory illnesses. Maybe we should try to maintain that and that that will lead to public policy shifts that will make the skies safer for lots of people in cities around the world. Listeners, you sent us some great chatters this week, as you always do. You tweeted to us at Slate Gabfests. And I want to point to one that Valerie Miner sent us. Valerie points us to a link from Lava May Elvie, a M80, which I guess is an organization which I didn’t know. But it helps it helps people help the homeless. What they have developed is a a handwashing station kit. And it’s very easy methodology for building a portable handwashing station that can help people wash their hands. And as we were talking about a minute ago on the show, hand washing is one of the really key ways to reduce disease transmission. And if you are somebody who doesn’t have a home, it’s really hard to wash your hands. So check out the lava mae kit. We’ll have a link to that. Thank you for listening to the GAB fest. If you liked it, please subscribe to the show. You’ll get new episodes. The minute we publish them. We were produced this week by Jocelyn Frank, as produced every week by Gelson Frank. And our researcher is Bridget Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Slate podcast June Thomas as managing producer. We engineered ourselves. You should follow us on Twitter at Slate Gabfest and send us chatter there. Tweet chatter to us there for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson.
S2: I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We will talk to you next week.
S4: Hello. Slate plus. John, this was your idea. Introduce it.
S10: So my idea was that we are since many of us are stuck inside. And we’re all staring into computer screens, resume meetings or the other kind of work we do. We’re in a golden age of videos and video learning and video teaching and just video life. So I was watching on Instagram the other day like the Donelli, who basically does live cartoon drawing. And I sat there watching her. She does this every day. I watched her just draw this cartoon while she was talking about it and where the idea came from. And I found it so mesmerizing to just watch the process just, I don’t know, soothing and captivating to watch something be built. And the other day, I also watched Bill Buford make a French omelet, which is a part of his new book, which is about turning a training to be a chef and Leo. The book’s called Dirt, and it’s just him making a French omelet. And how you crack the eggs and the way you listen to the sizzle of the butter in the pan. And then then The New Yorker had a video piece about a guy who solves puzzles on YouTube and people just watch him solve the puzzles. And so it kind of puzzles all kinds of puzzles, like not just jigsaw puzzles, but contraptions that need to be separated and taken apart or. Well, lots of them are basically that. So the stuff he used to do in doctor’s offices when you were a little kid that where, you know, it was like. But but the much, much, far more complicated versions of those. So I was thinking and then I was thinking about all the things that are the guitar videos that I watch where you just where I get mesmerized and just watching people do something very intricate and with expertise. And so I wondered if you guys had similar versions of those.
S1: So much more lowbrow than that in my Internet coronavirus watching. I just want funny clips that are like under two minutes long. That’s OK. I want to know. I mean, I find that Sarah Cooper, the Trump impersonator, like especially that first one she did, was pretty awesome. And then I love those sports commentators who have dogs racing each other. I will watch endless amounts of both the American and the British version of that.
S4: I have some of these, John. I think I’ve talked about some of this actually on the show recently. So my version of of this is Bone Appetite’s cooking videos, in particular The Gore May makes, which I’ve talked about before, where this clever surface, that fat that’s this genius genius of a TV presenter creates recreate popular snacks. But in a gourmet way. And just watching her think through the process is amazing. I love it. So that’s one that I do. I have done a live zoom close up magic show through Atlas Obscura. My old employer loved scene close up magic on and. And watching somebody create that thing, which you think is something that has to be done in your presence. But actually, it turns out it can be done. Can be done at a distance, too. There’s a there’s a particular thing that up in the DFS listeners know I love, which is group singing and group singing is something we’re not going to be able to do for a long time. And I love choirs. I love crowds of people and stadium singing. And so I will watch the crowd at the Green Day concert singing Bohemian Rhapsody in a park in London or the crowd at Anfield Liverpool Soccer Stadium singing You’ll Never Walk Alone or the. I watched Casablanca the other day and there’s this amazing scene where in Rick’s Cafe the patrons of the cafe sing Lahmar says together. And that always moves me whenever people sing together. So I watch. I seek out clips of people doing group singing. I’d love that. And then the best thing, honestly, the best thing I’ve seen, which is not at all educational, was Jenna Tatum. Jeneda one Tatum from that show Lip Sync Battle. You guys ever seen that show Lip Sync Battle. Do you know that. Great, great show. I don’t even know it’s still on me. More with Chrissy Teigen and L.L. Cool J. Where people do lip sync and dance to Lip Sync Genitalium, who was then married to Channing Tatum, who was Magic Mike. Basically, AC performs as Magic Mike, doing a genuine song. And it’s the most incredible dance I’ve ever seen anyone do ever. And that was two minutes of just joy. So I would check that out. That’s not that’s not what I’m. I’m not educating myself in the way you are.
S5: Well, but it’s it’s. Doesn’t this is a Chris Ramsey, by the way, is The New Yorker piece about the puzzle guy.
S10: Chris Ramsey is his name. It doesn’t necessarily have to be educational. It can be purely just the joy of watching somebody make something. I used to be obsessed, not obsessed. That goes too far. But the coffeemaker arrow press, the which is the single shot coffeemaker, very inexpensive. That changed my life years ago. A guy named Adam Lisick or did a movie about just making a cup of coffee. And it was just the the beauty of the little film was itself its own little piece of art. And it reminded me of two things. One, my English teacher who whose his first assignment was to tell us to write about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and which is explaining something or demonstrating something in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation. And then I. This happened at the same time I was reminded of this contraption that the world book used to give you, I guess, when you ordered a set of encyclopedias. But that I had when I grew up. But it was about the size of a of L.P, maybe about 30 percent larger. And it was a big plastic thing. And you put in these paper disks that were about the size of a record and you put them inside the plastic contraption and then you cycled through information and you taught yourself about stuff. And this is how I learned how a car works, was through this contraption in, you know, mid 70s, which I realized was the first time I ever taught myself some piece of information. And now you can, of course, just go on YouTube and and watch it. So anyway, I realized perhaps I’m disclosing some particular weirdness of my own. Also, there’s the famous making of ink video that you’ve talked about, David, that friend of the show, Stephen Colbert, likes that I was the process of watching someone making. Did he talk about that on your podcast?
S4: Yeah, he did. No, I was about to mention that. That is that’s the most amazing process video. Is it making ink or making a paint? Is it maybe it’s ink, but it’s just a color. It’s just like. Yeah. Vivid saturated color thing. Oh, it’s great.
S10: And the people being obsessed about this super intricate part of the process that make. But you don’t understand at all. But they are so exacting about and that’s what I love.
S1: I just want to add one more music genre. I love the singing ones, too, David, but also these ones where orchestras are fragmented and separated. But they’re figuring out how to play together. So there was one, I think, like a month or so ago, Rotterdam’s Philharmonic doing Beethoven’s Symphony number nine. I think it’s called from us for you. Did you guys see that one?
S4: No. But what I don’t understand with this, and I’m sure one minute of Googling would tell me the answer is they’re not playing at synchronously. Right. It’s some it’s an editor. It’s a massive editing job. Someone has done a great editing job. It’s not that it’s a great zoom job, right?
S1: Yeah. I don’t think you could do it over soon because of the delay. Right. It doesn’t work. Two groups sing on Zoom, as I’m sure you’ve also discovered. That was a discovery for us on the first night of Passover Seder.
S5: Yes, David, it’s an incredible editing job. And the ones who do it well are geniuses because it’s not so easy to do because also people are singing a different levels. And so, yeah, it’s very hard.
S4: I wonder. I mean, they have to have something some something, which is that the person who’s performing has to have something which is here’s a defined tempo. We’re all working off of this tempo. We’re all working off of this. We have to do this in exactly 18 minutes and 43 seconds. We’re all and we are all shooting for that. You know what they’re called. Click tracks. Josslyn.
S1: Just you should explain. What’s that?
S12: It’s when you basically have a metronome in your ear. And so you play along to a particular rhythm. So you play your part. And then the engineer will line everything up so that all the parts are hitting. So it’s kind of like having a conductor in your ear with less emotion and less push and pull. So orchestral musicians probably don’t like it because they can’t respond to one another. But in terms of engineering, it, it you can just line all the parts up, similar to how I line up this show every week with all three of your recordings.
S4: Whoa. All right. That was my favorite. Yeah. Yeah. We have basically.