Political Asylum

Political Asylum — November 9, 2012, 3:59 pm

Obama’s Bland Bargain

A dispassionate president disavows the liberal idea.

Political Asylum — November 8, 2012, 6:03 pm

Angry White Men

Can the G.O.P. genuinely change its attitude toward minorities and women?

Political Asylum — November 6, 2012, 2:01 pm

The Electoral Battle Between Corporationism and Empiricism

Obama’s data-driven approach may decide today’s race—and determine the future of the G.O.P.

Political Asylum — November 5, 2012, 9:42 pm

The Withdrawal of the American Establishment

An election-eve elegy for the country’s former guardians of sanity

Political Asylum — October 25, 2012, 1:33 pm

Is the Media Walking Us Into Another War? (Part II)

A New York Times op-ed writer nods his head along with Mitt Romney.

Political Asylum — October 24, 2012, 5:40 pm

Welcome to Easter Island

On a narrowly defined, narrowly argued foreign policy presidential debate.

Political Asylum — October 19, 2012, 4:26 pm

Is the Media Walking Us Into Another War?

The right’s strange new trope: bloodless regime change in Libya was bad; bloody, useless regime change in Iraq and everywhere else is good.

Political Asylum — October 17, 2012, 2:07 am

The Right Time

Recapping Mitt Romney's most blatant and risible falsehoods at the second presidential debate.

Political Asylum — October 15, 2012, 1:03 am

David Brooks Wants to Mix It Up

On the genteel Republican Party of David Brooks’s imagination

Political Asylum — October 9, 2012, 12:25 pm

Yes. We. Can.

“Who knew it was going to be the Skypilot himself, Flight Chief Obama, scrambling for the eject button while the rest of us tried to batter down the cockpit door and force him back into his seat?”

Political Asylum — October 4, 2012, 10:14 am

The Man Who Would Be Ex-President

After watching the first presidential debate, it’s hard not to wonder whether Barack Obama genuinely wants to remain in office.

Political Asylum — October 3, 2012, 3:05 pm

Mitt Romney Announces His Intention to Cheat

"The presidential debate in Denver this evening is supposed to be exclusively about domestic policy. But in today’s New York Times, we read that 'advisers said he would try to broaden the argument against Obama’s job performance by raising questions about how his administration handled the attack on a diplomatic mission last month in Libya that killed four Americans.'"

Political Asylum — October 2, 2012, 11:33 am

Unlikely Questions for the First Presidential Debate

A sampling of topics we're not likely to hear discussed at the first, “domestic” presidential debate. These are the questions that, if they are somehow asked, we can expect both candidates to strenuously avoid answering.

Political Asylum — October 1, 2012, 3:27 pm

The Crybabies’ Response to the Centrist

Mark Lilla says he's a centrist Democrat who was “relieved” to observe Obama's “political liberalism and instinctual conservatism.” But which of the social programs generated by the Great Society's legislative “overreach” does he so object to?

Political Asylum — September 26, 2012, 3:31 pm

The Literary Art of W. Mitt Romney

"Some have begun to detect a literary current in Mitt Romney’s seemingly mindless ramblings—a stream-of-consciousness that reflects, perhaps, the romantic wistfulness of the middle-aged man facing his own mortality."

Political Asylum — September 25, 2012, 3:18 pm

Wall Street Places Its Election Bets

How do the two presidential candidates stack up in the eyes of America's investment class?

Political Asylum — September 21, 2012, 11:22 am

Teatime With the Tea Party

"There’s little point now in trying to suss out whether Mitt Romney is at heart as much a thoroughgoing, Social Darwinist creep as the one he plays for rich donors. After a while, as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, “You are what you pretend to be.” And Romney’s pretenses have now infected not just the Republican leadership but its rank-and-file as well.??"

Political Asylum — September 14, 2012, 10:58 am

Ruin and Rebirth in the South

The South is, perhaps, the last romantic place in America, in all the best and worst senses of that word. It is a region where the wail of a freight train whistle is never very far away, and where you can see both lovely, fetid green swamps and nuclear-reactor towers from your train window. It is where a stretch of highway might bring the majestic spectacle of summer lightning illuminating a rolling cloud bank, or a gigantic American flag flying proudly over an auto dealership—or the Chernobyl-like remains of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s old Heritage USA, Christian theme park …

Political Asylum — September 13, 2012, 2:03 pm

Ybor Stories

“There was music in the cafés at night/ And revolution in the air . . .”—Bob Dylan Some may conclude from reading this blog that I believe downtown Tampa to be a soulless, sun-blasted hellhole made up of little besides empty sidewalks, endless parking lots, and sterile glass boxes. Some would be right. But there are many other parts of the Tampa Bay area that have real style and character. My own favorite is Ybor City, which was where Jack and I stayed during our sole- and soul-blistering trip to the Republican National Convention. Despite the name, Ybor is not a separate city, …

Political Asylum — September 9, 2012, 9:52 am

Party Like It’s 1984

I was struck, attending the Republican and Democratic political conventions, by how woefully inadequate the two southern host cities were to the task. I completely understand the political calculations that spurred these choices—Charlotte and Tampa are both “new” Sun Belt cities in important swing states. But c’mon. Minneapolis and Denver, the 2008 choices, were bad enough. This was ridiculous. Charlotte looks like Stamford, Connecticut, on steroids—a collection of overgrown glass boxes with bizarre roofs that are mostly the result of a fight between two of our greediest banksters, plus a NASCAR museum bigger than many NASCAR racetracks. Its slogan reads: …

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Men at Work·

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“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

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To Serve Is to Rule·

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The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

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The Bird Angle·

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

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The K-12 Takeover·

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Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

Founded in 2015, a decade after New Orleans became the nation’s first city to begin replacing all its public schools with charters, Cypress was something of a rarity. Like about nine in ten of the city’s charter schools, it filled spaces by lottery rather than by selective admission. But while most of the nonselective schools in New Orleans had majority populations of low-income African-American students, Cypress mirrored the city’s demographics, drawing the children of professionals—African-American and white alike—as well as poorer students. Cypress reserved 20 percent of its seats for children with reading difficulties, and it offered a progressive education model, including “learning by doing,” rather than the strict conduct codes that dominated the city’s nonselective schools. In just three years, the school had outperformed many established charters—a particular feat given that one in four Cypress students had a disability, double the New Orleans average. Families flocked to Cypress, especially ones with children who had disabilities.

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Five Stories·

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how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

I still like that man—Holger! He had been an orphan!

He came up to me once because there was something about how I was moving my feet that wasn’t according to the regulations or his expectations.

The room was a short wide room with a short wide window with plenty of artificial light.

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 limited edition Nike Air Max 97s, white sneakers that have holy water from the Jordan River in their soles and have frankincense-scented insoles, sold out in minutes.

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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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