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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On a sunny July day in 2018, Alexis Stern was sitting behind the wheel of the red Ford Fusion her parents had given her the previous year when she’d learned to drive. Robbie Olsen, the boy she’d recently started dating, was in the passenger seat. They were in the kind of high spirits unique to teenagers on summer vacation with nothing much to do and nowhere in particular to go. They were about to take a drive, maybe get some food, when Stern’s phone buzzed. It was the police. An officer with the local department told her to come down to the station immediately. She had no idea what the cops might want with her. “I was like, am I going to get arrested?” she said.

Stern had graduated from high school the month before, in Big Lake, Minnesota, a former resort town turned exurb, forty miles northwest of the Twin Cities. So far she had spent the summer visiting family, hanging out with her new boyfriend, and writing what she describes as “action-packed and brutal sci-fi fantasy fiction.” At sixteen, she’d self-published her first novel, Inner Monster, about a secret agent named Justin Redfield whose mind has been invaded by a malevolent alter ego that puts the lives of his loved ones at risk. “It isn’t until his inner demon returns that he realizes how much trouble he really is in,” the synopsis reads. “Facing issues with his girlfriend and attempting to gain control of his dark side, the tension intensifies. Being the best agent comes at a price, a price of kidnapping, torture and even death.

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Oceans Apart·

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I had been in Domoni—an ancient, ramshackle trading town on the volcanic island of Anjouan—for only a few summer days in 2018 when Onzardine Attoumane, a local English teacher, offered to show me around the medina. Already I had gotten lost several times trying to navigate the dozens of narrow, seemingly indistinguishable alleyways that zigzagged around the old town’s crumbling, lava-rock homes. But Onzardine had grown up in Domoni and was intimately familiar with its contours.

Stocky in build, with small, deep-set eyes and neatly trimmed stubble, Onzardine led me through the backstreets, our route flanked by ferns and weeds sprouting from cracks in the walls and marked by occasional piles of rubble. After a few minutes, we emerged onto a sunlit cliff offering views of the mustard-colored hills that surround the town, dotted with mango, palm, and breadfruit trees. We clambered down a trail, past scrawny goats foraging through piles of discarded plastic bottles, broken flip-flops, and corroded aluminum cans, toward a ledge where a dozen young men were waiting for the fishing boats to return to shore, gazing blankly out across the sea.

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Vicious Cycles·

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This is what I feared, that she would speak about the news . . . about how her father always said that the news exists so it can disappear, this is the point of news, whatever story, wherever it is happening. We depend on the news to disappear . . .
—Don DeLillo, “Hammer and Sickle”

What a story. What a fucking story.
—Dean Baquet, on the election of Donald Trump

a circular conversation

What is the news? That which is new. But everything is new: a flower blooms; a man hugs his daughter, not for the first time, but for the first time this time . . . That which is important and new. Important in what sense? In being consequential. And this has been measured? What? The relationship between what is covered in the news and what is consequential. Not measured. Why? Its consequence is ensured. Ensured. . . ? It’s in the news. But then who makes it news? Editors. Editors dictate consequence? Not entirely. Not entirely? It matters what people read and watch—you can’t bore them. Then boredom decides? Boredom and a sense of what’s important. But what is important? What’s in the news.

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The Forty-Year Rehearsal·

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On the evening of May 8, just after eight o’clock, Kate Valk stepped onstage and faced the audience. The little playhouse was packed with hardcore fans, theater people and artists, but Kate was performing, most of all, for one person, hidden among them, a small, fine-boned, black-clad woman, her blond-gray hair up in a clip, who smiled, laughed, and nodded along with every word, swaying to the music and mirroring the emotions of the performers while whispering into the ear of the tall, bearded fellow who sat beside her madly scribbling notes. The woman was Elizabeth LeCompte—known to all as Liz—the director of the Wooster Group, watching the first open performance of the company’s new piece, Since I Can Remember.

It had been a tense day, full of opening-night drama. Gareth Hobbs, who would be playing a leading role, had been sick in bed for days with a 103-degree fever, and he’d only arrived at the theater, still shaky, at three-thirty that afternoon. During the final closed rehearsal, performer Suzzy Roche fell on her elbow, then felt faint and had to lie prone while her colleagues fanned her and fetched ice. At one point, Erin Mullin, the stage manager as well as a performer, shouted: “We have one hour left, and we’re on page eight of fifty!” Not to mention that the piece still had no ending.

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Election Bias·

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In the spring of 2018, Tequila Johnson, an African-American administrator at Tennessee State University, led a mass voter-registration drive organized by a coalition of activist groups called the Tennessee Black Voter Project. Turnout in Tennessee regularly ranks near the bottom among U.S. states, just ahead of Texas. At the time, only 65 percent of the state’s voting-age population was registered to vote, the shortfall largely among black and low-income citizens. “The African-American community has been shut out of the process, and voter suppression has really widened that gap,” Johnson told me. “I felt I had to do something.”

The drive generated ninety thousand applications. Though large numbers of the forms were promptly rejected by election officials, allegedly because they were incomplete or contained errors, turnout surged in that year’s elections, especially in the areas around Memphis and Nashville, two of the cities specifically targeted by the registration drive. Progressive candidates and causes achieved notable successes, capturing the mayor’s office in heavily populated Shelby County as well as several seats on the county commission. In Nashville, a local measure was passed introducing a police-accountability board.

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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