Conversation

Conversation — December 10, 2019, 12:03 pm

To Know the Disease

Wendell Potter, a former health care executive, reveals the unified corporate effort against Medicare for All—and how those talking points are echoed by candidates and debate moderators

Conversation — December 26, 2018, 9:12 am

Northern Aggression

Dana Frank, the author of The Long Honduran Night, discusses the parties who orchestrated the 2009 coup and the resistance that has risen to fight against them

Conversation — October 30, 2018, 2:40 pm

So Goes Hodeida, So Goes Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition continues its brutal holding pattern of airstrikes, even in the face of the worst famine in one hundred years

Conversation — June 5, 2017, 12:01 pm

Slow Crash

Economist Michael Hudson on the future of the stock market

Conversation — October 26, 2016, 8:00 am

Eating Right

“I think that the metaphor of seeing ethics in terms of a supermarket array of consumption decisions is all too pervasive in contemporary society,” says philosopher Paul B. Thompson

Conversation — October 3, 2016, 11:00 am

Unofficial Stories

“The suffering cannot disappear without a trace, we need to understand how and why,” says Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 Nobel laureate in literature and author of Secondhand Time.

Conversation — September 20, 2016, 1:59 pm

Murky Waters

Harper’s Magazine writer David Gargill on General Electric’s failed Hudson River cleanup

Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation — May 25, 2016, 1:13 pm

Unjust Cause

Historian Gar Alperovitz on the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Conversation — December 9, 2015, 8:00 am

Choosing Words

"There is this idea that writing beautifully or writing powerfully is somehow separate from clear thinking," says Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me. "It’s not."

Conversation — December 4, 2015, 5:57 pm

Mountain Ambush

“Looking at the detailed Russian timeline of what happened,” says defense analyst Pierre Sprey, “I’d say the evidence looks pretty strong that the Turks were setting up an ambush.”

Conversation — November 6, 2015, 3:58 pm

Money Trail

“We spent 36 million dollars on a building that was totally built, never used, and has been turned over the Afghans. As far as we know, it’s empty.”

Conversation — October 23, 2015, 1:03 pm

Do-gooders

“The amazing thing about these people is that they are living as they believe they ought to. Imagine being able to say that!”

Conversation — October 2, 2015, 8:26 am

Permission to Speak Frankly

“By committing to the great emotional extremes demanded by Greek tragedy,” says Brian Doerries, author of Theater of War, “the actors are in effect saying to the audience: 'If you want to match our emotional intensity, that would be fine.'”

Conversation — June 25, 2015, 11:52 am

Before the War

The roots of the conflict in Yemen—a discussion between Washington Editor Andrew Cockburn and Sanaa-based political analyst Abdul-Ghani Al Iryani, with photographs by Alex Potter.

Conversation — March 30, 2015, 2:45 pm

On Death

“I think that the would-be suicide needs, more than anything else, to talk to a person like you, who has had to fight for life.”

Conversation — March 6, 2015, 8:00 am

Cuckoo Spit and Ski Jumps

Michael Paterniti discusses “Driving Mr. Albert,” a story he wrote for Harper’s, in 1997, about driving across America with Albert Einstein’s brain.

Conversation — January 26, 2015, 8:00 am

Absent Victims

Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of The Act of Killing, discusses his follow-up documentary, The Look of Silence, about those who survived the Indonesian genocide of 1965

Conversation — November 4, 2014, 11:59 am

Discussing the “Radical Otherness” of Israel with Frédéric Brenner

Only such a spectrum of perspectives could really do justice to the complexities and to the fact that Israel is totally un-understandable.

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Gimme Shelter·

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

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Climate disaster at Wounded Knee

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Body Language·

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

In an email before our meeting, Despentes asked that we not do a photo shoot. “There are so many images available already,” she explained. Much had been written about her, too. A Google search yielded page after page: profiles, interviews, reviews, bits and bobs—she read from Pasolini at a concert with Béatrice Dalle; someone accused her of plagiarizing a translation; a teacher in Switzerland was fired for teaching her work. The week I met her, she appeared in the culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles in conversation with the rapper-turned-actor JoeyStarr. The woman is simply always in the news.

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The Red Dot·

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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

$1,500

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.

The Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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