Editor's Note — March 19, 2018, 12:18 pm

Inside the April Issue

Thomas Frank, Elaine Blair, Andrew Cockburn, Lidija Haas, Corey Robin, and more…

For many Americans, the thought of Donald Trump in the White House remains an exercise in surrealism. But how about the thought of a second term for one of the most reviled presidents in modern history? It’s not really such a stretch, argues Thomas Frank in “Four More Years.” For one thing, he notes, “men who are regarded as incompetent, callow, senile, or racist sail back into office, and are even canonized as heroic figures once they retreat into the postpresidential sunset, clearing brush or painting oil portraits.” All it would really take, Frank says, is steady wage growth—the natural outcome of a tight labor market and, perhaps, some shrewd infrastructure moves by the supposed blue-collar hero in the Oval Office. Can Democrats head off this dystopian scenario? Not, Frank insists, without ditching their finger-wagging obsession with Russia and reconfiguring themselves as the party of Roosevelt. “The time has come,” he writes. “History is calling.”

In “Mobbed Up,” Andrew Cockburn casts a cold eye on America’s sixteen-year-long involvement in Afghanistan. It’s not merely that the conflict is unwinnable—it’s that we’re caught in a turf war between rival drug gangs, and have been regularly played by one side, then the other. To put it another way, we are an unwitting enforcement arm of the international opium industry. In “The Pain Refugees,” meanwhile, Brian Goldstone explores another pharmacological conundrum: the opioid epidemic that is currently killing thousands of Americans per year. Goldstone doesn’t deny the damage done by these readily available painkillers. He does, however, argue that our efforts to ramp back and regulate the supply of opioids have left many legitimate patients in the lurch—and in chronic, terrifying pain.

Noah Sneider traveled to Russia’s frigid Yamal Peninsula to investigate a mysterious outbreak of anthrax, which killed thousands of reindeer and at least one human being (dozens more were seriously stricken and hospitalized). The culprit, it seems, is climate change. According to the so-called zombie theory, freakishly hot summers have melted great expanses of permafrost, opened giant sinkholes, and allowed long dormant anthrax spores to rise to the surface. On a more heartening note, Samanth Subramanian recounts the efforts of a tiny Scottish village to save its harbor from both dilapidation and garish overdevelopment. “A Port in a Storm” is a chronicle of small-town, tartan-inflected resistance, which may remind some readers of the 1983 film Local Hero. It is also an object lesson in the community shares model, a legal and fiscal tactic that has enabled other communities to keep their assets in local, non-predatory hands.

Colin Fleming delivers a compact, deeply touching work of fiction in “Find the Edges.” Elaine Blair explores the literature of workplace harassment, going all the way back to Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela (1740), and Corey Robin delves into America’s national amnesia in this month’s Easy Chair. We have Lidija Haas on New Books and Christine Smallwood on the impossible task of motherhood. In Readings, we have a letter from Marina Tsvetaeva to Boris Pasternak, a style guide for white supremacists (“The more hyperbole, the better”), fiction by Patrick Chamoiseau, and a poem by Andrea Brady. There is, finally, a list of tasks performed by a former personal assistant of Harvey Weinstein that reveals the horrifying extent of the movie mogul’s routine sexual harassment. These range from the mundane (“Listening to his calls”) to the frankly icky (“Taking dictation of emails from him while he was naked”) to the apocalyptically gross (“Picking up his used condom”).  

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More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note April 12, 2018, 5:58 pm

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Rick Moody, Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Dee, and more

Editor's Note February 12, 2018, 11:15 am

Inside the March Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Katie Roiphe, Sallie Tisdale, and more

Editor's Note December 22, 2017, 1:26 pm

Inside the January Issue

Fenton Johnson, Andrew Cockburn, Mansi Choksi, Rebecca Solnit, Yasmine Seale, and more…

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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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