Do You Believe Her Now?
And given the evidence that’s come out in the years since, it’s also time to raise the possibility of impeachment. Not because he watched porn on his own time, of course. Not because he talked about it with a female colleague — although our understanding of the real workplace harm that kind of sexual harassment does to women has evolved dramatically in the years since, thanks in no small part to those very hearings. Nor is it even because he routinely violated the norms of good workplace behavior, in a way that seemed especially at odds with the elevated office he was seeking. It’s because of the lies he told, repeatedly and under oath, saying he had never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.
Lying is, for lawyers, a cardinal sin. State disciplinary committees regularly institute proceedings against lawyers for knowingly lying in court, with punishments that can include disbarment. Since 1989, three federal judges have been impeached and forced from office for charges that include lying. The idea of someone so flagrantly telling untruths to ascend to the highest legal position in the U.S. remains shocking, in addition to its being illegal.
Instead of providing investment funds to businesses (which is what most people think it does, but it really doesn’t, and never has very much), the stock market has served as an instrument of value extraction for the last thirty-five years. It’s as if the owning class has given up on the future and just wants to load up on private jets and Roederer Cristal. In that sense, the current administration, which is full of asset-strippers, starting with Trump, is the perfect representation of this version of capitalism.
It is one thing—an infuriating thing, granted—to lose your job because of “the market.” When your factory shuts down because labor is cheaper overseas or when your magazine folds because luxury watch companies shifted their marketing budgets to Instagram influencers, you may rage and despair, but you also probably saw it coming, in industry-wide economic trends that were impossible to ignore. But when your livelihood is disrupted because of the whims of one powerful person—when the invisible hand is replaced by one very visible and shockingly capricious one—it is a much more bewildering experience. And it is one more journalists can expect to experience in the near future, as the economic power of the 0.01 percent increases and the revenue models underpinning traditional news-gathering shops break down.
At a moment when Marvel Studios is making a self-consciously bold statement on inclusivity with Black Panther, Priest’s breaking of a color line deserves to finally be acknowledged. While Priest did not invent the Black Panther character — a superhero and king of a fictional African nation who had been kicking around Marvel for decades — in many ways he revolutionized it.
“He had the classic run on Black Panther, period, and that’s gonna be true for a long time,” says Ta-Nehisi Coates, who currently writes Black Panther for Marvel. “People had not put as much thought into who and what Black Panther was before Christopher started writing the book.” While previously the Panther had been written as a superhero, Coates notes, “[Priest] thought that Black Panther was a king.” It seems doubtful there’d even be a movie about him today if not for Priest’s refurbishing. Yet Priest himself has been chronically underappreciated.
The stories varied, but most people told the same basic tale: of a company, and a CEO, whose techno-optimism has been crushed as they’ve learned the myriad ways their platform can be used for ill. Of an election that shocked Facebook, even as its fallout put the company under siege. Of a series of external threats, defensive internal calculations, and false starts that delayed Facebook’s reckoning with its impact on global affairs and its users’ minds. And—in the tale’s final chapters—of the company’s earnest attempt to redeem itself.
In that saga, Fearnow plays one of those obscure but crucial roles that history occasionally hands out. He’s the Franz Ferdinand of Facebook—or maybe he’s more like the archduke’s hapless young assassin. Either way, in the rolling disaster that has enveloped Facebook since early 2016, Fearnow’s leaks probably ought to go down as the screenshots heard round the world.
Such meddling into when and how a public body might release public records under the Freedom of Information Act represents an additional bureaucratic layer for reporters. “It’s always been about what government documents should be released to the public, but now we are seeing more of this shift to businesses controlling what documents governments can release to the public,” Williams say. Such control, in effect, allows companies like Facebook to stifle debate about the generous tax incentives they receive, at a time when a growing body of research says such giveaways don’t work—even as they drain public coffers to the tune of $45 billion a year, according to a report by the Upjohn Institute.
Every book is a baby, born, but “Frankenstein” is often supposed to have been more assembled than written, an unnatural birth, as though all that the author had done were to piece together the writings of others, especially those of her father and her husband. “If Godwin’s daughter could not help philosophising,” one mid-twentieth-century critic wrote, “Shelley’s wife knew also the eerie charms of the morbid, the occult, the scientifically bizarre.” This enduring condescension, the idea of the author as a vessel for the ideas of other people—a fiction in which the author participated, so as to avoid the scandal of her own brain—goes some way to explaining why “Frankenstein” has accreted so many wildly different and irreconcilable readings and restagings in the two centuries since its publication. For its bicentennial, the original, 1818 edition has been reissued, as a trim little paperback (Penguin Classics), with an introduction by the distinguished biographer Charlotte Gordon, and as a beautifully illustrated hardcover keepsake, “The New Annotated Frankenstein” (Liveright), edited and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger. Universal is developing a new “Bride of Frankenstein” as part of a series of remakes from its backlist of horror movies. Filmography recapitulating politico-chicanery, the age of the superhero is about to yield to the age of the monster. But what about the baby?
In any case, the confusion between being publicly challenged and being forced into silence reminded me of one of the great, nuanced, searching essays of the #MeToo period, published in n+1 by Dayna Tortorici. In it, Tortorici writes of how she had come to notice men complaining that “they could not speak. And yet they were speaking …the right to free speech under the First Amendment had been recast in popular discourse as the right to free speech without consequence, without reaction.” What Roiphe is doing here is a tic of the powerful, the one that Tortorici has noted coming from men: mistaking the right to speech for the right to unquestioned authority. Roiphe’s friends may be whispering to her that they have qualms about #MeToo and are too scared to voice them without fear of angry retort. But that’s simply not the same as being unable to speak; it’s electing not to enter the fray, not to risk facing challenge or disagreement, not to start a fight they might not win.
That Roiphe sees this set of choices as tantamount to being silenced is remarkable from a woman who has built her career on objecting to a view of women as victims, who has often chastised women for presenting themselves as delicate flowers, Joan Didion’s “wounded birds,” unable to gamely navigate life’s “libidinous jostle” — as Roiphe put it in The Morning After. But when writing about the damage she has sustained from other women, the mean girls who shout her down at a reading or are cruel to her on Twitter, Roiphe herself is perpetually the wounded bird. At the end of her Harper’s piece, Roiphe suggests that many of the women who have spoken of how workplace harassment and assault left them feeling sidelined, disempowered, or discriminated against were using the fact that their bosses pushed their penises on them as an excuse to wave away the possibility that actually their work just wasn’t good enough. Yet Roiphe inoculates herself against criticism in precisely the way that she claims these women are doing, with a lot less logic behind her. Her piece is built on the premise that if readers respond to her critically, it’s probably not because her ideas are faulty, her prose tedious, or her interpretations dishonest; it’s because there’s a mob —as she described it on a CBS Sunday Morning segment — that has lit its torches and is out to get her, the brave heretic, forced to turn to Harper’s Magazine and network television to get her dissenting opinion out.
At the end of the speech, Bannon wanders out of the room. Just then one of the young men in the room looks up from his phone. “Fox News’s first reaction: What did Bannon think?” he shouts.
What Bannon thinks, I'm guessing, is that Trump does not understand how he got elected. He doesn’t understand the power of the anger he’s tapped, almost by accident. And he likely never will. There’s a throwaway line in Michael Wolff’s book: Trump never learned how to read a corporate balance sheet. His approach to his own ignorance is not to correct it but to compensate for it.
Trump has obvious weaknesses as a public speaker. His advisers declined the invitation to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last year because they didn’t think Trump could pull it off. “The central problem,” Wolff writes, “was that the president was neither inclined to make fun of himself, nor particularly funny himself -- at least not, in [Kellyanne] Conway’s description, ‘in that kind of humorous way.’” Bannon’s gift was to realize that he could simply ignore Trump's weaknesses and play to his strengths, and a lot of people, distracted by the strengths, would never see the weaknesses. Hang a giant American flag in the atrium of American political life, and people cease to notice the art hanging from the ceiling.
On Tuesday morning—the day after the House Intelligence Committee voted along partisan lines to send Rep. Devin Nunes’ memo, alleging abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to President Donald Trump for declassification—presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway was confronted with the idea that Russian trolls were promoting the #releasethememo hashtag online. She was offended. Russian trolls, she told a television interviewer, “have nothing to do with releasing the memo—that was a vote of the intelligence committee.” But her assertion is incorrect. The vote marked the culmination of a targeted, 11-day information operation that was amplified by computational propaganda techniques and aimed to change both public perceptions and the behavior of American lawmakers.
From both the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, vast disclosures illuminating previously hidden offshore accounts of the rich and powerful worldwide, we can see the full extent to which corruption has become the master narrative of our times. We live in a world of smash-and-grab fortunes, amassed through political connections and outright theft. Paul Manafort, over the course of his career, was a great normalizer of corruption. The firm he created in the 1980s obliterated traditional concerns about conflicts of interest. It imported the ethos of the permanent campaign into lobbying and, therefore, into the construction of public policy.
And while Manafort is alleged to have laundered cash for his own benefit, his long history of laundering reputations is what truly sets him apart. He helped persuade the American political elite to look past the atrocities and heists of kleptocrats and goons. He took figures who should have never been permitted influence in Washington and softened their image just enough to guide them past the moral barriers to entry. He weakened the capital’s ethical immune system.
Helping elect Donald Trump, in so many ways, represents the culmination of Paul Manafort’s work. The president bears some likeness to the oligarchs Manafort long served: a businessman with a portfolio of shady deals, who benefited from a cozy relationship to government; a man whose urge to dominate, and to enrich himself, overwhelms any higher ideal. It wasn’t so long ago that Trump would have been decisively rejected as an alien incursion into the realm of public service. And while the cynicism about government that enabled Trump’s rise results from many causes, one of them is the slow transformation of Washington, D.C., into something more like the New Britain, Connecticut, of Paul Manafort’s youth.
We may not see many criminal prosecutions in Germany, let alone convictions or lengthy sentences. The country’s law presents many serious hurdles. There’s no criminal liability for corporations, for starters. There’s no statute barring a criminal conspiracy, no relevant criminal clean air law, and no law against lying to regulators or investigators. (The latter is actually protected by the robust German right to silence, according to Carsten Momsen, a law professor at Berlin’s Free University.) Prosecutors’ tools to reward and turn perpetrators into state witnesses are weaker than those wielded by their American counterparts. And some of the criminal laws that do exist — written to catch individuals who swindle other individuals — may be ill-suited to capturing the corporate machinations that happened in this case.
The result is breathtakingly different outcomes for both the company and its customers in the two countries. In the U.S., the system has delivered swift consequences. Facing harsh corporate criminal sanctions, flexible and draconian criminal laws, and streamlined consumer class-action procedures, Volkswagen quickly capitulated. Within nine months — breakneck speed in the legal realm — it agreed to pay roughly $15 billion in civil compensation and restitution to consumers and federal and state authorities for the 2.0-liter cars involved, and the sum has since crept up to more than $25 billion, as deals were reached for the 3.0-liter cars, and for criminal fines and penalties. Volkswagen has bought back or fixed most of the offending vehicles, and customers have received thousands of dollars per car in compensation for a variety of losses, including the deception itself and diminished resale value. The company pleaded guilty in April to federal criminal charges of conspiracy, fraud, making false statements and obstruction of justice.
A New England town meeting would seem to be one of the oldest and purest expressions of the American style of government. Yet even in this bastion of deliberation and direct democracy, a nasty suspicion had taken hold: that the levers of power are not controlled by the people.
It’s a suspicion stoked by the fact that, across a range of issues, public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different: Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated; paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges free; the minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter; abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester.
Admiration, or at least cautious respect, for The Camp of the Saints seems to be where conservative commentators and politicians align with white nationalists. It offers insight into the true nature of the right’s fear of immigration, and shows the extent to which that fear has been normalized.
Tom Brady (and the Patriots) start the game, and life, on third base, with one foot already off the plate angled toward home. Brady’s seasons are a metaphor for rich white men who get the girl, the gig, the fame, the money without anything or anyone standing their way. He plays Monopoly, he passes Go, he gets $200, he doesn’t ever go to jail. Deflategate and other scandals— around his philanthropy with Best Buddies, the Patriots’ alleged cheating and stealing play calls, and pregnant, jilted girlfriends—bounce off him like a deflected pass off Richard Sherman’s fingertips. He is a human symbol of income inequality and the one percent. Tom Brady has had a disproportionate amount of success in life. He is hogging all the #winning.
It only gets worse when you look deep inside his chin dimple and realize that there’s nothing there, not even a piece of lint. He lives a life that is 101 percent football. He is 40 years old, and wants to play forever, he has a lifestyle book out inspired by his work with his controversial personal trainer, and business partner, Alex Guerrero, called The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, which advocates for some unusual practices—among them, achieving “pliability” (read: flexibility), via a “vibrating TB12 sphere,” for the low, low price of $150. (Alternately, you could just do some yoga.)
To Trump’s left was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. “Rex tells me you don’t want me to use the military option in Venezuela,” the president told the gathered Latin American leaders, according to an account offered by an attendee soon after the dinner. “Is that right? Are you sure?” Everyone said they were sure. But they were rattled. War with Venezuela, as absurd as that seemed, was clearly still on Trump’s mind.
By the time the dinner was over, the leaders were in shock, and not just over the idle talk of armed conflict. No matter how prepared they were, eight months into an American presidency like no other, this was somehow not what they expected. A former senior U.S. official with whom I spoke was briefed by ministers from three of the four countries that attended the dinner. “Without fail, they just had wide eyes about the entire engagement,” the former official told me. Even if few took his martial bluster about Venezuela seriously, Trump struck them as uninformed about their issues and dangerously unpredictable, asking them to expend political capital on behalf of a U.S. that no longer seemed a reliable partner. “The word they all used was: ‘This guy is insane.’”
YouTube culture—perhaps social media in general—exists in a state of entropy. Gamergate gave way to the alt-right, just as whatever you want to call these fratty white boys aping Jackass and appropriating dated hip-hop poses will probably lead to some other horror. Because there hasn’t actually been much done to guide or, frankly, police YouTube by anyone who might have once had the power to do so—other than the creators themselves. Which of course was the egalitarian dream of the platform, one that once sounded nice, as some utopian earlier-Internet ideal. But just as Twitter has shown—in its descent from a forum for amusing one-liners to a hellish bog of harassment and Nazism—when left nearly entirely to its own devices, the central spirit of the Internet hive mind, its great howling id, tends toward darkness.
That may be beyond anyone’s control, really. Sure, Twitter could do more to, say, not verify Nazis. But beyond that, there is something alarmingly impenetrable about these thriving, metastasizing cult-communities. Hand-wringing think pieces may shift or rouse the discourse for those on the outside of all of it, but they likely won’t reach the hearts and minds of those immersed and intoxicated. Or, at best, it will all sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, honking away in vague tones that communicate nothing but an atomized distance. More fuel is thrown onto that self-contained fire every day, with young audiences receiving their inculcation while parents and guardians figure it all unknowable but harmless.
hen President Trump slurred his words during a news conference this week, some Trump watchers speculated that he was having a stroke. I watched the clip and, as a physician who specializes in brain function and disability, I don’t think a stroke was behind the slurred words. But having evaluated the chief executive’s remarkable behavior through my clinical lens for almost a year, I do believe he is displaying signs that could indicate a degenerative brain disorder.
As the president’s demeanor and unusual decisions raise the potential for military conflict in two regions of the world, the questions surrounding his mental competence have become urgent and demand investigation.
Until now, most of the focus has been on the president’s psychology. It’s now time to think of the president’s neurology — and the possibility of an organic brain disorder.
America’s best-known television doctor presents himself as a crusader for recovery who rescues people from their addictions — and even death. But in its pursuit of ratings, the “Dr. Phil” show has put at risk the health of some of those guests it purports to help, according to people who have been on the show and addiction experts. Guests have been left without medical help as they face withdrawal from drugs, a STAT/Boston Globe investigation has found, and one person said she was directed by a show staff member to an open-air drug market to find heroin for her detoxing niece.
I began reporting on the various malcontents of the American far right back in 2011, when nationalism and white supremacy were still on the fringes of the political landscape and the Tea Party, almost quaint in retrospect, was the face of white anger. During those early years, I spent countless weekends at Klan BBQs, neo-Nazi rallies, and lackluster conventions where attendance rarely exceeded a couple dozen people. The white supremacist scene was as tiny as it was delusional. In the spring of 2011, I spent a rain-soaked evening under a tented gazebo in a suburban backyard in New Jersey, discussing electoral prospects with Jeff Schoep, the commander of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the largest neo-Nazi group in the United States. He believed that whites in America were coming around to his way of thinking, to identifying first and foremost as white. He explained that white voters could even get over the NSM’s fondness for swastikas and its affiliation with the KKK as long as the message and messenger were compelling enough. At the time I thought the rainwater had seeped into his brain.
As we approach the end of the first year of the Trump Presidency, how is American democracy faring? Might political scientists offer a prognosis? Dartmouth College’s John Carey and Brendan Nyhan, with Gretchen Helmke, from the University of Rochester, and Susan C. Stokes, from Yale, have been working toward one with “Bright Line Watch”—named to suggest, Carey says, that the profession as a whole should be “monitoring boundaries that dare not be crossed.” Since last February, they’ve been polling their colleagues at virtually every university and college campus across the country—there are some ten thousand political-science professors in the United States—asking them to rank the essential attributes of democracy and to rate America’s performance along those lines. So, what do the professors think?
The first primary of the 2018 midterm elections, in Texas, is barely eight weeks away. It’s time to ask: Will the Russian government deploy “active measures” of the kind it used in 2016? Is it possible that a wave of disinformation on Facebook and Twitter could nudge the results of a tight congressional race in, say, Virginia or Nevada? Will hackers infiltrate low-budget campaigns in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, and leak their e-mails to the public? Will the news media and voters take the bait?
By most accounts, the answer is likely to be yes—and, for several reasons, the election may prove to be as vulnerable, or more so, than the 2016 race that brought Donald Trump to the White House.
Imagine a car dealer sold you a lemon. You sue to get your money back. But the judge discovers that you managed to get yourself around most of the time, despite the bum vehicle. You only missed 10 percent of your appointments, so the judge orders that you are entitled to 10 percent of the price of the car.
That’s essentially what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last week for students defrauded by for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges. Victims of the corrupt diploma mill will not have their student loans discharged; instead, they will get a portion of relief based on their current income. The more professional ingenuity they showed despite being defrauded by Corinthian, the less money they will get in restitution.
It’s yet another way in which DeVos has acted in favor of the for-profit college industry, which was left for dead after several major companies’ deceptive schemes finally caught up with them. Not only is DeVos shielding the industry from the consequences of those misdeeds, she’s rewriting the rules to legalize those practices.
In many ways, the Kochs are like Donald Trump himself. Trump is a grotesque caricature of a rich person, who seems like he ought to be in a children’s movie playing the greedy developer who wants to demolish the rec center to build a block of condos. As inequality has grown in America, our billionaires seem to have gotten progressively more and more absurd. And this isn’t a coincidence: as the rich get richer, they spend their money on ever more excessively wasteful things. The most over-the-top house is no longer the $10 million house, but the $500 million dollar house. We get things like Timeshare King David Siegel‘s 10,000 square foot “Versailles” mansion and Larry Ellison’s 23-acre estate modeled after a 16th-century Japanese emperor’s palace. (Ellison maintains an astonishing number of luxury properties, including 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Asked why he needs so many houses even though he can only live in one at a time, Ellison replied that he has to have places to put his vast art collection. Which is like answering the question “Why would anyone need a house with a 50-car garage?” by saying “Well, you can hardly expect me to keep 50 cars on the driveway.”)
By singling out particular individual billionaires for scorn, I don’t mean to suggest that there can ever be such a thing as a “good” billionaire. So long as our world contains scores of impoverished refugees living in tent cities, possessing vast sums of money that you could be using to keep other human beings from dying horrible deaths will always be grotesquely immoral. Still, there are “better” and “worse.” Mark Zuckerberg mostly just seems dopey. Peter Thiel is downright sinister.
I’m less interested in ranking billionaires by their nefariousness, though, than in thinking about the question of “what makes people the way they are.” When we consider the causes of crime, we have to think about external factors that shaped a person’s life outcomes and personality, and we should be willing to extend the same level of analysis to billionaires that we would to murderers. “How does a Wyatt Koch come into existence?” is a fascinating, if easily answered, sociological question.
The only reliable way to stop Trump and the Republican Party that has stood firmly behind him for his entire presidency is through strategic political defeat. In 2018, the GOP must be crushed at the ballot box, their congressional majorities taken, and Congress' investigative powers put back to good use — and not just on Russia, but also on the unprecedented money corruption that suffuses the Trump White House. Never before in American history has it been possible to give a direct cash bribe to the president by simply joining or staying at one of his many golf resorts or hotels.
This will mean, of course, overcoming Republican cheating. The GOP has rigged the House to give themselves a roughly 5- to 8-point handicap, and attempted to systematically disenfranchise liberals with voter ID requirements and other deliberately burdensome measures. Democrats and other left-leaning groups must help people jump through those hoops and win by a big enough margin to overcome the handicap.
Then in 2020, Trump must be crushed at the ballot box. His corrupt administration must be thoroughly investigated, and any criminal acts punished. More importantly, the economic base of Republican plutocracy — Wall Street, monopolist corporations, and idle rich heirs and heiresses — must also be crushed. Monopolies must be broken up, taxes on the rich and corporations dramatically increased, and the size, profitability, and power of Wall Street sharply reduced with cricket bat regulations.
A copy of a Turning Point brochure prepared for potential donors that I obtained provides a glimpse into the group’s tactics. (A former Turning Point employee said the brochure was closely held, and not posted online so that it couldn’t leak.) Its “Campus Victory Project” is described as a detailed, multi-phase plan to “commandeer the top office of Student Body President at each of the most recognizable and influential American Universities.”
Phase 1 calls for victory in the “Power 5” conference schools, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Pacific 12 Conference, the Big 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference. Phase 2 calls for winning the top student-government slots in every Division 1 N.C.A.A. school, of which it says there are more than three hundred. In the first three years of the plan, the brochure says, the group aims to capture the “outright majority” of student-government positions in eighty per cent of these schools.
Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of “free speech” policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movements. Turning Point’s agenda also calls for the student leaders it empowers to use student resources to host speakers and forums promoting “American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals on campus.”
For me, however, what most distinguishes Diski as a thinker and writer is that she is kind, and it is her abundant kindness that marks her as one of the bravest writers I’ve read. Kindness, in women thinkers in particular, is a risky gambit; the products of their intellects can appear (to idiots) accommodating or soft, and as a result can be treated with less seriousness. The Diski I’ve read so far doesn’t get hung up in this mess. She does not equate critical gravity with dismissiveness or hard-line bloviating. She does not perform knee-jerk disembowellings as a means to plant the sword of her own intellectual identity. She is not intimidated by or made to feel insecure by difference, and so does not respond to otherness with ruthlessness and obstinance. In her stories, her female protagonists respond with engagement, and via that engagement they often come to understand that they, too, are a bit wanting; they see themselves differently through investigating the difference of others. Ellen, for example, confused by an inane younger student named Tracy, forces herself to inhabit Tracy’s mind. “That it had never crossed her mind that Tracy (and others, certainly) did not know where the eighteenth century was in relation to the present day, seemed to Ellen a level of ignorance close to Tracy’s.”
But internal FCC documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information Act request show that the independent, nonpartisan FCC Office of Inspector General—acting on orders from Congressional Republicans—investigated the claim that Obama interfered with the FCC’s net neutrality process and found it was nonsense. This Republican narrative of net neutrality as an Obama-led takeover of the internet, then, was wholly refuted by an independent investigation and its findings were not made public prior to Thursday’s vote.
Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, there’s reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoin’s rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology.
Bitcoin may be in a bubble, but not all bubbles are created equal. Some are shimmering nothings, reflecting little more than an underlying pyramid scheme. But others are like ocean swells that could become enormous waves. Consider the tech stocks of the late 1990s — a bubble, to be sure, but in retrospect, was Amazon really overvalued?
What gives the Bitcoin bubble significance is that, like ’90s tech, it is part of something much larger than itself. More and more we are losing faith in humans and depending instead on machines. The transformation is more obvious outside of finance. We trust in computers to fly airplanes, help surgeons cut into our bodies and simplify daily tasks, like finding our way home. In this respect, finance is actually behind: Where we no longer feel we can trust people, we let computer code take over.
The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.
One previously unreported order — a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats — prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said.
The Cabinet members carrying out President Donald Trump’s orders to shake up the federal government are doing so under an unusual layer of secrecy — often shielding their schedules from public view, keeping their travels under wraps and refusing to identify the people and groups they’re meeting.
A POLITICO review of the practices of 17 Cabinet heads found that at least seven routinely decline to release information on their planned schedules or travels — information that was more widely available during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Three other departments — Agriculture, Labor, Homeland Security and Education — provide the secretaries’ schedules only sporadically or with few details. The Treasury Department began releasing weekly schedules for Secretary Steven Mnuchin only in November.
In addition, at least seven Cabinet departments don’t release appointment calendars that would show, after the fact, who their leaders had met with, what they discussed and where they traveled — a potential violation of the Freedom of Information Act, which says agencies must make their records “promptly available to any person.” At least two departments — Education and the Environmental Protection Agency — have released some of those details after activist groups sued them.
This information clampdown is occurring with little oversight by Trump’s White House, which said only that agencies should follow the law when it comes to deciding what information to release.
In the case of the sentencing commission, the court’s decision proved enormously consequential. The federal sentencing guidelines produced by the commission helped remake the nation’s prisons. During the following decade, far more people went to prisons to serve far longer sentences.
“The guidelines did increase severity, pretty much across the board,” said Kate Stith, a Yale University law professor and expert on the federal sentencing commission.
Individual states followed the federal lead and instituted sentencing guidelines for state offenses, similarly lengthening prison terms and inflating prison populations.
Yet ample scholarship done over 30 years has only made clearer that the central rationale for the commission’s creation — large and pervasive discrepancies in sentencing imposed by judges — never existed.
The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are hoping to make the most sweeping changes to federal safety net programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits.
The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs.
In the meantime, the Trump administration has already begun making policy shifts that could have major ramifications.
If you thought the Republican tax plan was just about huge tax cuts for the wealthy, think again. It’s also a major attack on science.
To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The scientific enterprise in America heavily relies on grad students. They do mostly invisible work in thousands of labs and research institutions across the US, on everything from basic research about human cells to clinical research on how to cure cancer. Their contributions are essential to running studies.
In exchange for that labor during their training, the federal government gives them a break on their taxes.
Very simply, grad students get their tuition and other school fees waived while they’re teaching or researching. When tax season rolls around, they’re exempted from having to pay taxes on that money (which never hits their pockets).
President Donald Trump’s choice to head a federal coal mine regulator, like more than one of his nominees, is a vocal critic of the very agency he’s being asked to lead. Steven Gardner is a longtime coal industry consultant, and he has called the agency’s marquee Obama-era regulation the product of “one of the most disingenuous and dishonest efforts put forward by a government agency.”
But in Gardner’s case, there is an unusual — and contentious — twist: He runs an engineering firm that produced a report as part of the process of preparing that regulation, and the agency deemed it so shoddy that it cut ties with Gardner’s company. Now he’s the nominee to head that agency, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. (In broad terms, OSMRE — pronounced “oz-muhr” — focuses on mining’s effect on the environment, while the other key regulator, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, focuses on the welfare of miners.)
Fodor’s politics were never evident from his writing, and he regarded the idea that we are meaning-seeking creatures, telling ourselves stories in order to live, as English-department blah-blah. He was a naturalist, and he believed that with a proper understanding of Darwin we would never ask nature to tell us who or what to be. “We are artifacts designed by natural selection,” Daniel Dennett wrote, to which Fodor said no. “Darwin’s idea is much deeper, much more beautiful, and appreciably scarier: We are artifacts designed by selection in exactly the sense in which the Rockies are artifacts designed by erosion; which is to say that we aren’t artifacts and nothing designed us. We are, and always have been, entirely on our own.”
After last week, almost none of the people involved in any of those stories works at L.A. Weekly anymore. In fact, it’s not exactly clear who works at L.A. Weekly anymore, or what L.A. Weekly even is anymore. The newspaper’s immediate and long-term future is in question, and it’s now been cut adrift in a shrinking local and national media scene that’s become acutely crueler to journalists and increasingly beholden to powerful men with agendas. The L.A. Weekly still exists, though it’s run by a consortium of rich men with ties to right-wing dark money. The story of L.A. Weekly is not just the story of a round of layoffs, or the story of the death of the print industry. L.A. Weekly did not have to be sheared of its talent and ethos like it was, and yet what happened to it isn’t exactly surprising.
The documentarian traveled to Belize for three months late last year, sitting down with those McAfee spent his time with — from his masseuse, local journalists, and his girlfriends to his bodyguards, the town mayor, and others. What emerges is a shocking portrayal of an expat whose activities weren’t just questionable, but sadistic, psychotic, and outright villainous. Burstein (who directed the 2002 Robert Evans doc The Kid Stays in the Picture) is a dogged documentarian, confronting those at the center of the alleged murders and placing herself in the middle of a series of unsolved crimes.
When I spoke to her the day after the Gringo's debut at TIFF, Burstein said McAfee had harassed her through the film’s production and post-production. Even that morning, hours after the premiere, Burstein says she received an email with the subject line "You are a horrible person." The email threatened to dig through her past. "If I can’t find anything, I’ll make it up," she recounts the email. "We are watching you…"
The selective rhetorical elevation of black women acts as a sort of overcorrection. For better and for worse, the gospel of individualism remains the bedrock of American identity. And yet the creed does not apply to black women, who are regarded not as varied, self-interested political actors, or as people to be served or scrutinized in meaningful ways, if they are regarded at all. Instead, the black female voter is thought to make decisions, with infinite patience and piety, in response to the strident acts of self-determination around her. Hers is a reactionary, not a visionary, politics, a righting of the ship of state. (The veteran congresswoman Maxine Waters, in her charismatic crusade against Trump, has made clever use of this presumption, subversively embracing the colloquial title of Auntie.) As opposed to Trump, the black female voter is especially invoked as a check on the moral void that would, in the case of Alabama’s special election, allow the election of a candidate who had pursued underage girls and spoken fondly of family life under slavery. Just search for the phrase “Black women warned us” on social media to see the degree to which she is sanctified. Her lack of power and ego makes her the right arbiter of justice. Materially, though, she is ignored, and her efforts to safeguard her own welfare are instead regarded as efforts toward a national salvation. She is of America only because she works for it.
Using taxpayer dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency has hired a cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office track and shape press coverage of the agency.
Photographer Ian Gronosky, who lives nearby in South Melbourne Beach, says he was one of the first to arrive at Cuki and saw mannequin parts everywhere. A torso and head lay under some life jackets, fishing nets and lines. A leg was nearby with a second near the rail.
“It was definitely creepy,” he says.
The boat’s hail port indicated on the stern was New Rochelle, N.Y., 1,109 nautical miles away—sparking speculation that it had floated that far.
Authorities from multiple agencies tracked down the 1974 fiberglass boat to a Floridian who bought it from a New York owner and kept it in Key West, according to vessel-registration records. The Coast Guard speculates it broke free and washed ashore 340 miles to the north.
The owner can’t collect his boat, Monroe County police say, because he is an inmate at Monroe County Detention Facility on Stock Island outside Key West.
McCarthy’s colleagues innately shared his anti-authoritarian perspective; they voted unanimously to oppose the removal of rec.humor.funny from Stanford’s terminals. The students were nearly as committed; a confidential e-mail poll found a hundred and twenty-eight against the ban and only four in favor. McCarthy was soon able to win over the entire university by enlisting a powerful metaphor for the digital age. Censoring a newsgroup, he explained to those who might not be familiar with Usenet, was like pulling a book from circulation. Since “Mein Kampf” was still on the library shelves, it was hard to imagine how anything else merited removal. The terms were clear: either you accepted offensive speech or you were in favor of destroying knowledge. There was no middle ground, and thus no opportunity to introduce reasonable regulations to insure civility online. In other words, here was the outline for exactly our predicament today.
Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.
The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.
Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.
His administration has moved to undo at least some of the sanctions the previous administration imposed on Russia for its election interference, exploring the return of two Russian compounds in the United States that President Barack Obama had seized — the measure that had most galled Moscow. Months later, when Congress moved to impose additional penalties on Moscow, Trump opposed the measures fiercely.
Slurs get hammered, vitriol gets mixed in with The New York Times’ facts, and everything always comes back to the Jews. Anglin is very explicit about what he’s doing here: He’s recruiting.
A refusal to recognize a proper union request is the workplace equivalent of voter suppression. It is not a fair or legitimate way to settle differences of opinion—that’s what the bargaining table is for. It is, rather, a brash statement that your company does not want to allow you a basic voice at work even though it is your legal right to have one. It is simple bullying. And it is indicative of the fact that your boss does not think you are worthy of the baseline sort of respect that we are supposed to offer one another as adults.
Boies is famous for his role as the lead attorney for the former Vice-President Al Gore during the 2000 Presidential-election vote recount and, later, as the co-lead counsel in the case that established the constitutional right for gay and lesbian couples to get married in California. One of the most powerful and well-respected lawyers in the country, Boies has had a long and celebrated career in private practice and in government; he developed a reputation for integrity and high ideals in a profession that isn’t always known for them. More recently, however, questions have been raised about some of the tactics that Boies has employed when representing men in disputes with women. On November 6th, The New Yorker published an article by Ronan Farrow that detailed Boies’s role representing Harvey Weinstein, who is alleged to have sexually harassed or assaulted dozens of actresses and former employees. (Weinstein has denied engaging in non-consensual sex.) As part of his work for Weinstein, Boies hired private investigators from several different firms who, among other tasks, gathered information—including personal and sexual history—intended to discredit an actress, Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of rape. Boies has since severed professional ties with Weinstein and said that his firm’s involvement with the investigators was “a mistake.” In an e-mail to his firm’s staff that was then leaked to the press, Boies wrote that “I would never knowingly participate in an effort to intimidate or silence women or anyone else. . . . That is not who I am.”
As Jared Kushner leads the U.S. government’s effort to develop an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, the Kushner Companies Charitable Foundation is funding a hardline Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
The charitable fund made a donation of at least $18,000 at the “Master Builders” level to American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center, according to a donor book distributed at the group’s annual gala Sunday evening.
The Kushner family has given money in past years to the group, which funds construction of the Bet El settlement outside the Palestinian city Ramallah, as Haaretz first reported. But this appears to be the first time they’ve done so while Kushner, whose title is senior adviser to the president, is the lead administration official brokering a peace plan.
I just can’t get enough of Baked Alaska owning himself. He owns himself so frequently that a lot of people think he is doing a schtick like he’s some kind of white power Andy Kaufman character that gets destroyed daily by strangers, because that would make sense. But after watching and editing way too many hours of this dope running around harassing people and sticking a camera in their faces, I’m certain he isn’t trying to be humiliated over and over and over again. He wants to be funny. And it’s clear when he’s trying to make a joke, like when he stands in front of a gated entrance to an outside mall and points at it and says: “Looks like Auschwitz. Haha. That’s just like Auschwitz.” He wants to be in control of what people are laughing at, but everyone is only laughing at the painfully awkward, unintentional humor of him endlessly failing.
“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley told the Register in a story published Saturday. “As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
The estate tax, often described by Republicans as the “death tax,” is levied only on the very rich, passing on assets of more than $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for married couples. The current tax on estates is 40 percent of an individual’s wealth at death.
Grassley, a Senate Finance Committee member responsible for writing the tax proposal, was immediately slammed by critics over the comments.
The status of Jerusalem—sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths—has long been one of the “final status” issues to be determined as part of the peace process. One of the implicit rewards for a peace accord was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem—and possibly opening a separate U.S. Embassy to a new state of Palestine, in an eastern part of the city. The U.S. Embassy was effectively a valuable diplomatic chit in the most complicated and drawn-out peace negotiations since the Second World War. The President has now played that card in reverse order, and for nothing tangible in return. Indeed, the move cost his Administration credibility even before it was made.
The Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, said that the announcement “destroys the peace process,” a warning echoed by many top Palestinians who embrace peace negotiations and have engaged with Israelis for more than a quarter century, since the 1993 Oslo Accord.
“In one blow, President Trump has destroyed not only the chances of any peace but the stability and security of the region as a whole,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, said on CNN, on Wednesday. “He has undermined his closest allies in the Arab world. He has given all extremists and nuts all over the world who are ready to commit acts of violence a perfect excuse because he has provoked spiritual sentiments and religious feelings to the point where we don’t know how far the ramifications will go.”