Satire — October 12, 2018, 2:12 pm

The Burden of Power

The mayor of Margaret’s Cove addresses the public slander against him

Election season brings out the liars in Margaret’s Cove. As your mayor, I deal with all kinds of people year-round. I feel it is my duty to rebut some of their accusations as we approach the coming vote.

There is some talk that I have scared away the fish in the bay. This is goofy. Fish do not fear like you or I. They are little creeps that munch through the water all day. There’s nothing in there to scare. True, there are fewer fish, but this is because of the terrible poisons that we dump endlessly into their habitat. In a perfect world, we’d stop doing that. Have any of you picked up a newspaper lately? This isn’t exactly a perfect world.

It’s well-known around Margaret’s Cove that the chemical plant gives off a bit of a smell. Some of the thugs that show up to town council meetings have said that this has reduced tourism. True, there are fewer tourists, but I wouldn’t blame the smell. The chemical plant offers a wholly decent tour. The problem here is that these tourists are snobs. People from the city would rather go to an art gallery and look at photographs of chemical plants than drive out here and look at a real one. Take it up with them. I’m not paid to care about folks who don’t even live here.

The public park in Margaret’s Cove has seen better days. I’m the first to admit that. But also, blaming this decline on my brother’s chemical plant seems like a low blow. He has paid more than his fair share after the explosion for the cleanup and to help those children. And yet the children keep showing up to the council meetings, prodded on by cynical, injured parents. These little devils can’t vote but still want a free ride. So, I let the children know what I think, and in language they’d better get used to hearing. I dumped some plywood and tools on the lot, and that just started a whole new round of complaints. Get over yourselves.

Being your mayor is a terrible job. I doubt to the core of my being than anyone else could handle it. The real “avoidable disaster” I worry about waking up to is one of you people knocking on my door demanding this or that, as if I caused the town’s bankruptcy. I pray every day that my brother and I can find a buyer for the chemical plant and get out of this town. You and I know that is unlikely until the children stop complaining to every lawyer they see. I’ve asked the police to take these children on, but they’ve whined that the optics are “bad.”

Some of you have filed to run against me, but I threw your applications in the garbage. Each and every one of them were totally unqualified. One candidate is a teacher. Imagine a teacher trying to run a whole town! Our whole budget would go to playgrounds and apples. No dice. You’re all stuck with me for another few years. Let’s try to make this as painless as possible.

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October 2019


Constitution in Crisis·

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America’s Constitution was once celebrated as a radical and successful blueprint for democratic governance, a model for fledgling republics across the world. But decades of political gridlock, electoral corruption, and dysfunction in our system of government have forced scholars, activists, and citizens to question the document’s ability to address the thorniest issues of modern ­political life.

Does the path out of our current era of stalemate, minority rule, and executive abuse require amending the Constitution? Do we need a new constitutional convention to rewrite the document and update it for the twenty-­first century? Should we abolish it entirely?

This spring, Harper’s Magazine invited five lawmakers and scholars to New York University’s law school to consider the constitutional crisis of the twenty-­first century. The event was moderated by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown and the author of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.

Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

Power of Attorney·

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In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is my second one,” he told a bystander seconds after firing the fatal shots, seemingly in reference to an incident four years earlier, when he had shot and killed another unarmed man, an immigrant from Kazakhstan. Rankin, a Navy veteran, had been arresting Chapman for shoplifting when, he claimed, Chapman charged him in a manner so threatening that he feared for his life, leaving him no option but to shoot to kill—­the standard and almost invariably successful defense for officers when called to account for shooting civilians. Rankin had faced no charges for his earlier killing, but this time, something unexpected happened: Rankin was indicted on a charge of first-­degree murder by Portsmouth’s newly elected chief prosecutor, thirty-­one-year-­old Stephanie Morales. Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide. “No one could remember us having an actual prosecution for the killing of an unarmed person by the police,” Morales told me. “I got a lot of feedback, a lot of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t try this case. If you don’t win, it may affect your reelection. Let someone else do it.’ ”

Carlitos in Charge·

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I was in Midtown, sitting by a dry fountain, making a list of all the men I’d slept with since my last checkup—doctor’s orders. Afterward, I would head downtown and wait for Quimby at the bar, where there were only alcoholics and the graveyard shift this early. I’d just left the United Nations after a Friday morning session—likely my last. The agenda had included resolutions about a worldwide ban on plastic bags, condemnation of a Slobodan Miloševic statue, sanctions on Israel, and a truth and reconciliation commission in El Salvador. Except for the proclamation opposing the war criminal’s marble replica, everything was thwarted by the United States and a small contingent of its allies. None of this should have surprised me. Some version of these outcomes had been repeating weekly since World War II.

Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:


A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A group of researchers studying the Loch Ness Monster did not rule out the possibility of its existence, but speculated that it is possibly a giant eel.

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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