The Nationalist's Delusion
During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.
It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.
The use of government as a tool of vengeance is not merely a recurring theme of Trump’s government. It is, in at least some cases, an explicitly articulated public philosophy. Stephen Moore, a conservative economic adviser at the Heritage Foundation, praises the Republican tax-cut plan as a deliberate attack on blue America. Moore, who has met with Trump and previously worked for such places as The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Club for Growth, is not a marginal kook but instead a deeply influential one. His brazen endorsement of the goal of using the tax code to strike out at the party’s enemies merits close attention.
Moore argues that subjecting income spent on state and local taxes to federal taxation — a change Republicans might be expected to oppose as a form of double taxation — will have the delicious secondary effect of pressuring state government to shrink. “The big blue states either cut their taxes and costs, or the stampede of high-income residents from these states accelerates,” he gloats. “The big losers here are the public employee unions — the mortal enemies of Republicans. This all works out nicely.”
The Taliban guerrillas are, like many insurgent armies, largely made up of teenagers who fight, at least in part, for cash to feed their families. Every spring for the past 15 years, as snow melts from mountain slopes across that country, new crops of such teenage recruits emerge from impoverished villages ready to take up arms for the rebel cause.
Each of them reportedly makes at least $300 a month, far more than they could possibly hope to earn from the usual agricultural wages. In other words, it takes an estimated $90 million in salaries alone for the Taliban to field its 25,000 strong guerrilla army for a single fighting season. With an overall budget approaching a billion dollars annually, the cost of the insurgency’s 15-year war rings in at something close to $15 billion.
So where, in that impoverished, arid land, has the Taliban been getting nearly a billion dollars a year? According to the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, a single Afghan province, Helmand, “produces a significant amount of the opium globally that turns into heroin and … provides about 60 percent of the Taliban funding.”
The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, agrees. “Without drugs,” he’s said, “this war would have been long over. The heroin is a very important driver of this war.”
Like most everyone else in the Rivergreen development, Goodwin told me, Boucher pays in the ballpark of $150 a month for professional landscaping, while Paul insists on maintaining his yard himself. Goodwin said that part of what nagged at Boucher was the difference in grass length between his lawn and that of his libertarian neighbor's. "He had his yard sitting at a beautiful two-and-a-half, three inches thick, where Rand cuts it to the nub," Goodwin said.
Also at issue, according to Goodwin, is Paul's tendency to mow outward at the edge of his property, spraying his clippings into Boucher's yard. Boucher, he said, has asked Paul to instead mow inward when near the boundary line, and even sought help from the Rivergreen Homeowners Association but has gotten no relief.
Goodwin recalled picking up Boucher, a devout Catholic, at his home after church one Sunday afternoon several years ago. Boucher had confronted Paul about his yard-maintenance practices a few minutes before Goodwin's arrival, to no avail, and Goodwin saw Boucher grow agitated as they both watched Paul blow grass onto his lawn. "I've asked him and I've asked him and I've asked him," Goodwin recalls Boucher fuming. "How long can you sit there taking someone plucking a hair out of your nose?" Goodwin asked. "How long could you take that before losing your temper?"
Politicians set the goals, technocrats figure out how to achieve them, and on Election Day voters decide whether the two have delivered on their promises. This way of thinking is so entrenched that it’s all but impossible to imagine an alternative. Of course the point of politics is policy. What else could it be?
Except it hasn’t always been this way. The notion that a government’s chief obligation is getting stuff done is a fairly recent arrival on the historical scene. Not until the twentieth century did it attain the commonsensical status it enjoys today. As Antonin Scalia observed with characteristic snark, the Constitution “contains no whatever-it-takes-to-solve-a-national-problem power.” Policy arose in fits and starts over centuries, and the legacy of that jagged evolution is still with us. Today, policymaking has taken over a government that is nonetheless bound by the Constitution; politicians promise to swoop in and fix whatever has gone wrong, while working in a system that is designed to curb the impulse to intervene. That tension has helped bring us to our current impasse, where Americans ask more than ever from a government they increasingly distrust.
Trump's first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.
In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB's operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.
In addition to shifting politics in Moscow, Kryuchkov’s difficulty had to do with intelligence gathering. The results from KGB officers abroad had been disappointing. Too often they would pretend to have obtained information from secret sources. In reality, they had recycled material from newspapers or picked up gossip over lunch with a journalist. Too many residencies had “paper agents” on their books: targets for recruitment who had nothing to do with real intelligence.
Schultz’s story is interesting for reasons far beyond its sheer shock value. It’s entirely reasonable that at the time she created the Ryan persona, she might not have thought she could easily have a career writing about baseball as a woman. She’s also drawn a big red arrow sign pointing toward the exploitative ecosystem of online sportswriting, which created the conditions for her to get her enviable opportunities without much interrogation from editors who have a lot to do and few resources with which to do it.
Most of all, though, there are real women who have been genuinely hurt by their interactions with a woman who, as she tells the story, caught herself up in a lie she didn’t know how to untell, not least because it was bringing her what she wanted.
Melgar, two special operations sources say, discovered the SEALs were pocketing some of the money from the informant fund. The SEALS offered to cut him in, but Melgar declined, these sources said.
It is unknown what specifically started the June 4 altercation at 5 a.m. but it escalated. Melgar lost consciousness—and, worse, stopped breathing. The SEALs attempted to open an airway in Melgar’s throat, officials said. It is unknown whether Melgar died immediately. The SEALs and another Green Beret, according to former AFRICOM officials, drove to a nearby French clinic seeking help. Melgar was dead when he arrived at the clinic, the official said. Asphyxiation was the cause of death.
In other words, email bombing is a perfect parable for 2017, a time in which we appear to be collectively losing faith in the promise of the internet. For the first 20 years of this new communications medium, it seemed to hold out the promise of fostering democracy and shifting the balance of power from the powerful to the masses. In recent years, though, a depressing realization has taken hold: The internet is fragile and easily exploited by hackers, trolls, criminals, creepy corporations and oppressive governments.
Social media in particular has become a battleground, filled with disinformation, hoaxes and conspiracies — some pushed by Russian trolls, we have learned, and some by our own homegrown harassers.
Most disturbing is the rise of hateful, inflammatory speech. At its worst, it veers into the territory of what researcher Susan Benesch calls dangerous speech — the type of propaganda that has historically been used in places like Rwanda and Hitler’s Germany to convince people to commit violence.
All this, perhaps, is not so surprising, considering polling continues to show that—in spite of unprecedented unpopularity—nearly all people who voted for Trump would do it again. But as I compared this year’s answers to last year’s responses it seemed clear that the basis of people’s support had morphed. Johnstown voters do not intend to hold the president accountable for the nonnegotiable pledges he made to them. It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.
This reality ought to get the attention of anyone who thinks they will win in 2018 or 2020 by running against Trump’s record. His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.
And they love him for this.
In the 12 years I reported from the US I saw no end of white journalists opine on black America. This summer, I took a trip through white America, driving from Maine (the whitest state) to Mississippi (the blackest), to flip the script. Talking only to white people, I attended a white supremacist conference, accompanied an emergency health worker who sought to revive people who had overdosed, and went to a comedy club in the French Quarter of New Orleans to see the “Liberal Redneck” perform. I was told the Ku Klux Klan were liberals (they weren’t), that Confederate general Robert E Lee didn’t own slaves (he did) and that I could not be British because I’m black (I am).
As a deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development in the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Gavin Clarkson oversees a small program that guarantees loans for Indian businesses. His “expertise in the areas of law, finance and economic development are a valuable asset,” noted Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a statement announcing the appointment, which took effect on June 11 and didn’t require Senate confirmation.
Zinke didn’t mention it, but Clarkson is particularly well acquainted with the loan guarantee program he now supervises: He played a key role in a convoluted transaction that flopped and left the Interior Department fending off a $20 million liability that is still in litigation years later. That sum represents about 25 percent of the amount the program can guarantee in a year, and until the case is resolved, that money cannot be used to guarantee new loans.
Under ordinary circumstances, the institutions built by the old are repopulated by the young, who adjust them for new circumstances but leave them basically the same, in turn handing them over to the next generation. The possibility of successful passage through the institutions of society is what makes a person follow a normative rather than deviant life course: being a woman or a man roughly the way she or he is supposed to, partnering and reproducing in the socially standard fashion; trying to get ahead or at least get by according to prevailing ethics of education and work. In our society, this has meant (in ideal-typical middle class terms): homeownership, an occasional vacation, sending your kids to college, and retirement. Historical continuity—the integrity of social institutions over time—works itself out on the individual level: people may feel they are making distinct, agonizing life choices, but for the most part they are living out those institutions predictably. An institution is, at the end of the day, just a pattern of social behavior repeated long enough. On the other hand, if the institutions aren’t processing enough people into the proper form—if too many can’t or won’t do family or school or work or sex approximately the way they’ve been done before—then large-scale historical continuity can’t happen. The society can’t look tomorrow like it does today.
A 2015 Pentagon report found the military was failing to provide crucial information to the FBI in about 30 percent of a sample of serious cases handled in military courts.
Defense Department investigators looked at cases involving 1,102 service members convicted of serious and often violent offenses between 2010 and 2012. Officials in the three branches scrutinized by investigators — the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force — failed to submit fingerprints to the FBI in more than 300 cases. The services did not give the FBI criminal history information in 334 instances.
The Pentagon report found that the Air Force did not submit the fingerprints of at least 110 convicted airmen during the period between 2010 and 2012. It’s not clear yet whether Kelley was one of the 110 airmen reflected in that report, but he certainly could have been.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.
Joel Benenson, Clinton campaign chief strategist: I go into the 10 o'clock call and we're getting reports from the analytics people and the field people. And they finish, and whoever's leading the call asks if there's anything else. I said, “Well, yeah, I got a call 20 minutes ago from my daughter in Durham, North Carolina. People are standing on line and aren't moving, and are now being told they need to vote with paper ballots.” To me, that was the first sign that something was amiss in our boiler room process. That's essential information. We needed those reports so the legal team would activate. I was stunned, and actually quite nervous. I thought, “Do we even have what we need on the ground to manage election day?”
Let me be absolutely clear here: No matter how far Trump has warped our collective sense of what is normal or even minimally acceptable in an American president, it is not acceptable for a president either to employ, or threaten to employ, the agents and ministers of the criminal law of the United States against his enemies for political gain. A president who does so engages in precisely the class of misconduct perilous to the maintenance of republican government for which the founders designed the remedy of impeachment.
In other words, Kelly may love whatever version of America’s past that he has in his mind. But he is not particularly fond of this actual country, today, or Americans themselves (unless they’ve been in the military).
The cookie story is not a perfect analogy, but it is an antecedent of sorts to the narrative of Russian meddling in the American election, and it is instructive. Was the Moscow protest made any less real because a fake donor had brought cookies? Was the protest in New York in November of last year any less real, or any less opposed to Trump, because a Russia-linked account originally called for it? Is Trump any less President because Russians paid for some ads on Facebook? Is there any reason, at this point, to think that a tiny drop in the sea of Facebook ads changed any American votes? The answer to all of these questions is: no, not really.
The most interesting question is: What were the Russians doing? In the weeks leading up to the election, Putin made it clear that he expected Hillary Clinton to become President. There is every indication that Moscow was as surprised as New York when the vote results came in. Indeed, in Russia, where election results are always known ahead of time, the Trump victory might have been even more difficult to absorb. So what, then, was the point of Russian meddling—what was the vision behind the multicolored Bernie superhero and the “No invaders” ad?
Yet in many ways, the meetings would be a referendum on the same argument owners have been holding in private meetings for years: What is the NFL's identity? Is it a strict entertainment company that Jones and others envision, controlling the behavior of its players in service of its financial bottom line? Or should it attempt to transform itself into a more socially conscious league that would strive, through the forging of a rare and fragile owners-players partnership in this moment, to use its mammoth platform to try to change society for the good, even if the cost of that process, slow and complicated, would likely be measured in short-term declining popularity and lower revenues?
Although the Sackler name can be found on dozens of buildings, Purdue’s Web site scarcely mentions the family, and a list of the company’s board of directors fails to include eight family members, from three generations, who serve in that capacity. “I don’t know how many rooms in different parts of the world I’ve given talks in that were named after the Sacklers,” Allen Frances, the former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, told me. “Their name has been pushed forward as the epitome of good works and of the fruits of the capitalist system. But, when it comes down to it, they’ve earned this fortune at the expense of millions of people who are addicted. It’s shocking how they have gotten away with it.”
This pattern of shady, perhaps even illegal, business practices never really sticks to Ivanka, nor does it inform the media narrative about her instincts, judgment, scruples, or expertise. The media have had no problem hitting Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and even Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, very hard for foreign entanglements that might make them susceptible to blackmail. So why not Ivanka?
Over the last two months, I interviewed close to two dozen sources, including 14 reporters and editors from some of the most widely read newspapers and magazines in the country, as well as some key players in Ivanka’s media orbit, to understand more about the press’s relationship with this sui generis First Daughter. Some, particularly White House reporters, asked not to be identified because they feared they would lose access to the First Daughter and her family if they spoke on the record, or were not authorized by their publications to speak in an official capacity. “Ivanka is essentially not covered,” says a writer and editor who has reported on her for well-known national publications. “Someone is doing something wrong, because there is the same story over and over again. It has to be more than that.”
You have a person at the top encouraging, inspiring it, and engaging in fake news. The greatest disseminator of fake news is the president of the United States.
Yet amid the sword dances and flattery, a shadow lingered over the occasion: 9/11. After years of glacial legal progress, the momentous charge that our Saudi allies enabled and supported the most devastating act of mass murder on American soil may now be coming to a resolution. Thanks to a combination of court decisions, congressional action, and the disclosure of long-sequestered government records, it appears increasingly likely that our supposed friend and peerless weapons customer will finally face its accusers in court.
Over the years, successive administrations have made strenuous efforts to suppress discussion of Saudi involvement in the September 11 attacks, deploying everything from abusive security classification to the judiciary to a presidential veto. Now, at last, we stand a chance of discovering what really happened, largely because of a court case.
Reading between the lines, it’s clear: Cambodia’s news infrastructure experienced a radical change, overnight. And none of the editors I was able to contact, or anyone that they knew, had heard from Facebook about the change before it happened. They just walked into work one day and everything was different.
It’s possible that, in the long term, separating page posts out from people posts would be a good idea. News Feed has serious problems. Maybe the split feed would be a superior experience. But to see how it would be before making a huge change, one can imagine Facebook would want to do some major testing.
From Facebook’s perspective, the company has to be allowed to try out new versions of its software. It can’t be asked to keep its tools static because publishers have gotten used to them. And some tests might need to be disruptive to get to a future, better Facebook. This iterative process is, in fact, how Facebook has built the product that so many people use for an average of more than 50 minutes per day.
But Facebook did not simply end up controlling news distribution in countries across the world. They strategically entered the market, much as any company would, as part of their own competitive battle with other internet companies. Some responsibility must come with the deliberate rerouting of the public sphere through Facebook’s servers and ad networks. Right?
Casper was on its way to becoming a 750-million-dollar company. It was the hottest of the bed-in-a-box disruptors, with investments from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Nas. And it was picking on some skinny blogger from Arizona?
I called my editor and confessed that in a moment of weakness I had accepted a free mattress from an online mattress reviewer named Kenny, and that I wanted to write about this bizarre industry and its even more bizarre David-and-Goliath legal battle.
I couldn’t know it then, but the outcome of that battle would influence the purchase decisions of many thousands, if not millions, of people seeking a good night’s sleep. It would also reveal just how thoroughly the internet and the businesses that thrived there had blurred the lines between product reviews and advertisements. All I’d wanted was a mattress, but what I got was a look at a little-known and hugely lucrative annex of e-commerce, one where the relationships can often get a little too comfy—until they’re not.
To truly understand how Facebook is responding to its role in the election and the ensuing morass, numerous sources inside and close to the company pointed to its unemotional engineering-driven culture, which they argue is largely guided by a quantitative approach to problems. It’s one that views nearly all content as agnostic, and everything else as a math problem. As that viewpoint has run headfirst into the wall of political reality, complete with congressional inquiries and multiple public mea culpas from its boy king CEO, a crisis of perception now brews.
Inside Facebook, many in the company’s rank and file are frustrated. They view the events of the last month and those that preceded it as part of an unjust narrative that’s spiraled out of control, unchecked. Five sources familiar with the thinking inside the company told BuzzFeed News that many employees feel Facebook is being used as a scapegoat for the myriad complex factors that led to 2016's unexpected election result. What the public sees as Facebook’s failure to recognize the extent to which it could be manipulated for untoward ends, employees view as a flawed hindsight justification for circumstances that mostly fell well beyond their control. And as the drumbeat of damning reports continues, the frustration and fundamental disconnect between Facebook's stewards and those wary of its growing influence grow larger still.
In Wisconsin, I had seen and heard everything the Third Way researchers did—and eaten at the same restaurants, and slept at the same Hampton Inn in Eau Claire, and watched the same landscape roll by the windows of the same SUV. I heard all the optimism they did, but I also heard its opposite: that one side was right and that the other was the enemy; that other Americans, not just the government, were to blame for the country’s problems. There’s plenty of fellow-feeling in the heartland for those who want to see it, but there’s plenty of division, too. And not every problem can be solved in a way that splits the difference.
The other groups of anthropologists roaming Middle America face the same quandary. Having gotten the country drastically wrong, they have set out on well-meaning missions to bring the country together by increasing mutual understanding. They share Third Way’s basic assumption that mutual understanding is something Americans can agree to find desirable. But as hard as they try to open their minds to new perspectives, are they ready to have that basic assumption challenged?
We now get our news in real time, on demand, tailored to our interests, across multiple platforms, without knowing just how much is actually personalized. It was technology companies like Google and Facebook, not traditional newsrooms, that made it so. But news organizations are increasingly betting that offering personalized content can help them draw audiences to their sites—and keep them coming back.
“Imagination," on the other hand, wrote Dr. Johnson elsewhere, “a licentious and vagrant faculty, unsusceptible of limitations and impatient of restraint, has always endeavored to baffle the logician, to perplex the confines of distinction, and burst the enclosures of regularity.” Bar describes the contrast between the imaginative mind and the information processing mind as “a tension in our brains between exploration and exploitation.” Gorging on information makes our brains “’exploit’ what we already know," or think we know, "leaning on our expectation, trusting the comfort of a predictable environment.” When our minds are “unloaded,” on the other hand, such as can occur during a hike or a long, relaxing shower, we can shed fixed patterns of thinking, and explore creative insights that might otherwise get buried or discarded.
I sympathized with everything he was saying, but I know many people who’ve crossed the river without papers, and they are good people. I didn’t understand why Rusty would have a militia on his property (it’s now disbanded), nor why he would call the Border Patrol—he admitted that he does that. It seems he overgeneralizes about immigrants. A lot of people overgeneralize. But Rusty seemed to have other problems with his mind.
For example, he told me that ISIS had crossed the river right here at Brownsville and were caught by the police, but instead of taking them to the station, Obama sent a bus for them and they disappeared. Another weird thing he told me was that he can tell when someone crossing the river is a Muslim, or “a Mohammedan,” as Rusty said, just by putting his left hand out. According to him, a “Mohammedan” will pull back in fear.
This sounded pretty crazy to me. And Rusty didn’t seem to understand that the racist things he was saying could hurt people, even people like me. He just wanted to talk and talk nonstop. He seemed really lonely. He said he is in so much pain from his cancer that most nights he can’t sleep. I started to wonder how long he’d been living alone. “I made some bad decisions,” he said, “and my wife and kids left me.”
Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state's real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.
The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was "permanently suspended."
Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.
“I’m going to wait for the tomato harvest,” Arellano says with a laugh, “and then I will think about things.”
CNN reports that almost two weeks after the deadly firefight, the Pentagon still doesn’t understand what happened, and is conducting a preliminary review to see whether there should be a formal investigation and whether military procedures need to be changed. The president of the United States has made no comment on the deaths of four soldiers except to exculpate himself. Beyond that, a president who promised to pull the United States back from its engagements around the globe hasn’t made any statement to the American people about why Special Forces soldiers were in Niger, why they were out on patrol despite their advisory role, who was responsible for their deaths, or why it’s important for U.S. troops to be in West Africa.
Laffer might not be a familiar figure to many of Trump’s 40 million Twitter followers, but the former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan is a giant within the Republican Party as the “godfather” of supply-side economics, the theory that cutting taxes and regulations creates economic growth (a cousin to trickle-down economics, which argues more specifically for tax cuts for the rich). In reality, though, Laffer is a Svengali or huckster who holds unconscionable influence on one of America’s two major parties, despite his ideas having been discredited—and not only by critics on the left—from the very beginning. That Trump and other Republican policymakers are promoting Laffer’s disproven theory yet again is the most damning evidence of the party’s intellectual rot.
The new Booker, in other words, is really just a reflection of broader changes in the publishing world. Global publishing, like global literature, is increasingly homogenous. That’s not to say that a heterogeneous variety of books aren’t being published and recognized, just that our cultural pillars are increasingly shared across national lines.
The whole notion that the Warriors have built their dynasty around some sort of specific team building strategy is dumb, to begin with: in 2012, Steph Curry signed a four-year, $44 million contract that looked like an underpayment before the next All Star break, and would soon become the best bargain contract in NBA history. Everything the Warriors have done since then rests upon that development, which gave them one of the very best players in the history of the league at about the salary of a solid rotation player, and left them with the salary cap flexibility to get and keep a roster of tremendous complimentary players. That flexibility was still benefiting the Warriors when the cap leapt outrageously before the 2016 season, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime shot to add another of the game’s all-time greats to an already stacked roster. Turning around now and acting as though the Warriors executed some sophisticated team-building strategy does nothing but flatter Joe fucking Lacob while obscuring the boring truth; that Steph Curry’s early ankle injuries are far more responsible for Golden State’s dynasty than are a bunch of dubious roster ratios. I mean get fucking serious.
A rift is starting to develop between the people who work for Facebook, and those who simply use the platform. Countless people who live and work in Silicon Valley, and even some ex-Facebook employees, complain that Facebook employees are increasingly living in a bubble. They are sharing stories and theories that Mark Zuckerberg is surrounded by sycophants and people who think just like him; that he’s unaware of the negative impact his company has had on the world and doesn’t fully appreciate the extent to which Facebook was weaponized during the election. (Zuckerberg’s countrywide itinerary, featuring folksy images of himself engaging with regular Americans, didn’t precisely dissuade people from the assumption that he isn’t getting honest feedback from deputies.)
Former Secret Service officials and other experts say it's exceedingly unlikely that the government does not know who is getting close to the president. In addition to keeping track of people coming into the club, the Secret Service also regularly conducts criminal background checks on any guests or staff members who will spend more than a passing moment in physical proximity to the president. This protocol applies at Mar-a-Lago in the same way it does everywhere else the president goes.
“It makes zero sense to me that they would have no records related to [protective intelligence] name checks or background checks at Mar-a-Lago,” said Jonathan Wackrow, who served on the Secret Service’s presidential protection detail for 14 years. “You would never want to be surprised.”
Watchdog groups and journalists have tried to find out who has had audiences with Trump at the place he’s dubbed the “Winter White House.” Advocates contend the public has a right to know who has access to the president, especially since it can be bought for $200,000 a year, the current price of a Mar-a-Lago membership. This money flows into the Trump Organization, enriching the president.
Last week, well after insurance companies around the country had set premiums for next year’s ACA-compliant plans, Trump announced he had abruptly suspended billions of dollars in annual payments the ACA promises issuers to support plans poor people can afford. He also signed an executive order that, if implemented as intended, will siphon healthy people into unregulated markets, leaving the ACA exchanges overpopulated with sick beneficiaries. The combined effects of these changes will be to increase premiums, decrease overall coverage, and (because the government subsidizes these increasing premiums) to increase the budget deficit. It is a policy regime supported almost exclusively by people who believe humiliating Barack Obama and making liberals angry are the highest callings of government. The harm will disproportionately befall Trump voters; Trump is doing it against the wishes of Republican elected officials in Trump country because he thinks he’s peeing on Barack Obama’s bed, and not his own.
Varoufakis’s book lays bare the way Europe’s leading powers disguised bailouts of their own financial institutions as “assistance” to Greece, and confirms what many on the left have long suspected: that we live in an era in which the interests of supernational institutions—particularly the “troika” of the EUC, ECB, and IMF—outweigh those of sovereign nations. Fail to take on debts to these organizations, and your national economy will be fatally excluded from currency and trade arrangements. Take them on, and your economy will become a vehicle for servicing your debt. If hospitals and schools and social services must be plundered in order to accomplish this goal, so be it.
The “adults in the room” of Varoufakis’s title are the serious and sober decision makers who guard the global financial order. They act, as Varoufakis says, not out of greed or cruelty, but because their best intentions have been captured by the untenable and mystifying financial arrangements that keep capital alive in this century. They are “adults” by virtue of their willingness to resolve the terrible disparity between the rich countries’ self-proclaimed moral authority and the damage they wreak on smaller economies. The real grown-ups don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the convenient. The adults are a network of mutually dependent “insiders,” Varoufakis says, and for all their power they don’t have much leeway within their hierarchies to defy the status quo. If they did, they’d simply lose their positions and end up replaced by someone more willing. This was, ultimately, what happened to Varoufakis.
What struck me was Trump’s contempt for his predecessors. With scarcely a thought, he attacked not their policies, but their characters, accusing them of being casual about the deaths of American soldiers.
In their eye-opening book “The Presidents Club,” my friends Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy documented the deep and complex empathy fostered among sitting presidents and their predecessors. Only they can understand the weighty experience of the office, and this makes even bitter political rivals into “fellow travelers in the parallel universe where past, present, and future blur, where the terrain of regret looks very different and where there is hardly ever such a thing as a perfect outcome.”
However, the newest club member appears incapable of empathy. Thus, he can malign not just the decisions but also the decency of previous presidents. And not as a matter of principle — merely on impulse, a whim.
“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” the president said.
One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump; in one memorable Cabinet meeting this year, each member went around the room lavishing the president with accolades.
Senior administration officials call this speaking to an “audience of one.”
One regular practitioner is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who praised Trump’s controversial statements after white supremacists had a violent rally in Charlottesville and also said he agreed with Trump that professional football players should stand during the national anthem. Neither issue has anything to do with the Treasury Department.
Former treasury secretary Larry Summers wrote in a Twitter post, “Mnuchin may be the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
What he left unsaid, however, was that between the November election and January inauguration, he had quietly moved a chunk of assets into trusts for his family members, leaving more than $2 billion off of his financial disclosure report—and therefore out of the public eye. Ross revealed the existence of those assets, and the timing of the transfer, when Forbes asked why his financial disclosure form listed fewer assets than he had previously told the magazine he owned.
The hidden assets raise questions about whether the Secretary of Commerce violated federal rules and whether his family owns billions in holdings that could create the appearance of conflicts of interest.
But while dozens of undocumented immigrants were detained, the administration sought to shape the narrative that “by removing from the streets criminal aliens and other threats to the public, ICE helps improve public safety,” according to statements by the agency.
On February 10, as the raids kicked off, an ICE executive in Washington sent a directive to the agency’s chiefs of staff around the country. “Please put together a white paper covering the three most egregious cases,” for each location, the acting chief of staff of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations wrote in the email. “If a location has only one egregious case — then include an extra egregious case from another city.”
Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. That’s Twitter’s original sin. Like Oppenheimer, Twitter was so obsessed with splitting the atom they never stopped to think what we’d do with it.
Twitter, which was conceived and built by a room of privileged white boys (some of them my friends!), never considered the possibility that they were building a bomb. To this day, Jack Dorsey doesn’t realize the size of the bomb he’s sitting on. Or if he does, he believes it’s metaphorical. It’s not. He is utterly unprepared for the burden he’s found himself responsible for.
When Trump says ‘this is not about race,’ he is adopting an ahistorical stance of colour blindness in order to disempower black Americans protesting against ongoing discrimination through economic, political and social systems that are structurally racist.
“It was all about Pence’s political career,” Cooper said. “As a Christian, he’s a hypocrite. He wouldn’t see me or speak with me. God doesn’t turn his back on the truth, but Pence just walked away from the truth. I couldn’t move forward in life. I was stuck in a dead-end job.” Cooper, who was operating a forklift at the time, now cares for his grandchildren. He has become friendly with the robbery victims who mistakenly identified him in a police lineup; they supported his bid for a pardon. “I forgive them,” he said. “They stood up for me.” He went on, “I forgive the prosecutor. He wrote a letter. And the parole board? They saw that justice happened. But I don’t forgive Mike Pence, and never will. He talks all this God stuff, but he’s biased. He hates Muslims, he hates gay people, and he hates minorities. He didn’t want to be the first white man in Indiana to pardon an innocent black man.”
Only a tiny fraction of the thousands of Americans shot dead each year will die in what the FBI defines as a mass shooting. Fewer still will die in mass shootings that will grab headlines. But the idea of mass shootings—their very existence—is generally corrosive in a way other gun murders are not. The gunshots that claim so many black and Latino young men are integrated into mainstream white discourse as simply How Things Are; the shots that end the lives of American women, like the abuse that precedes them, happen all too often behind closed doors; the gunshots that fell queer and transgender people are muffled by the same stigmas that dog so much of their lives. But mass shootings reveal to Americans otherwise insulated from quotidian gun murder that they are not immune, that brutal death or grievous injury can, in principle, come to them no matter who they are or where they might be. Compounding this sense of terrifying vulnerability is the recognition of a properly existential futility: an understanding that, no matter your station or your status, if this is how death comes to you, then, in any substantive sense, your death will not matter.
This is the horror of mass shootings. Not just death that comes from nowhere, intruding upon the status quo—but a death that doesn’t change that status quo, that continues to sail on unchanged by it. You may be a toddler in a preschool in one of the richest zip codes in the country; a congressman playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia; a white-collar office worker in a business park; a college student or professor on some leafy campus; a doctor making your rounds in a ward in the Bronx; a country music fan enjoying a concert in a city built as a mecca for relaxation and pleasure: the bullet that comes for you will not discriminate. It knows no racial bias, imposes no political litmus test, checks no credit score, heeds no common wisdom of whose life should or shouldn’t matter. It will pierce your skin, perforate your organs, shatter your bones, and blow apart the gray matter inside your skull faster than your brain tissue can tear. And then, after the token thoughts and prayers, nothing. No revolutionary legislation or sudden sea change in cultural attitudes will mark your passing. The bloody cruelty of your murder will be matched only by the sanguine absence of any substantive national response. Our democracy is riven by inequality in so many ways, but in this domain, and perhaps in this domain alone, all American lives are treated as equally disposable.