Press Rogue

Press Rogue — May 23, 2019, 2:59 pm

One Horse Town

“Twitter isn’t real life.” So declared New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg last week, writing on the budding Democratic presidential primary. In fact, as a source of information on the state of the party, the platform is “actively misleading,” she said, noting that Bernie Sanders has twice as many followers as Joe Biden, yet it’s Biden who’s leading in the polls. “Left-wing Twitter isn’t a microcosm of the Democratic Party,” she went on, “it’s just a small, noisy fraction of it.” A month earlier, Goldberg’s colleague Lisa Lerer had primed the pump by complaining that Twitter was “totally unrepresentative of …

Press Rogue — May 16, 2019, 4:00 pm

Playing With Fire

For folks on either coast, the story of climate change is also a story about extreme wealth disparity.

Press Rogue — May 9, 2019, 4:00 pm

Boys on the Bus

This week, the cover of Time magazine features Pete Buttigieg and his husband alongside the headline “First Family.” Looking like the definition of middle-American business casual, the pair stands amiably in front of their home, yellow tulips grazing the bottom of the portrait. It’s the first time this year that an individual Democratic presidential candidate other than Joe Biden has graced the most influential real estate in magazine journalism, and just the latest elevation of the South Bend mayor whom Vogue recently dubbed “the unicorn in this year’s Democratic field.” This framing echoes the gushing media that followed Beto O’Rourke’s …

Press Rogue — May 2, 2019, 3:41 pm

Correct the Record

Last week, President Trump distorted the truth for the ten thousandth time since taking office. That’s according to Glenn Kessler and his fact-checking team at the Washington Post, who have assumed the unenviable responsibility of scrupulously tracking the president’s every false and misleading assertion. In an article announcing the milestone, the Post’s fact-minders wrote that Trump has been averaging twenty-three disreputable claims a day since September, an eye-popping increase from the early months of his tenure, when a typical day saw no more than five fabulations. The Trump presidency has proved a boom time for fact-checkers. Since 2016, public-facing fact-checking—grounded in …

Press Rogue — April 25, 2019, 2:00 pm

Too Big to Cover

Finally, after months of speculation, Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is prepared to pay up to $5 billion to the Federal Trade Commission for violating an agreement to protect user data. Wired wrote that such a fine would be “big enough to hurt,” but The Verge was dismissive, arguing that the company is “too rich for it to matter.” Investors, it seems, agreed with the latter view: in after-hours trading on Wednesday, the company’s stock rose some 8 percent. That Facebook can treat a ten-figure fine as a slap on the wrist may explain why, when the Wall Street Journal …

Press Rogue — April 18, 2019, 3:00 pm

Crisis Mode

Until recently, the editorial boards of the nation’s leading newspapers agreed on one important fact: there was no crisis at the border. In March, when President Trump declared a national emergency, the New York Times said his reasoning ran “contrary to all evidence.” In February, the Washington Post declared that there was “no crisis at the southern border.” A week earlier, the Los Angeles Times had offered a similar analysis: “The nation faces many problems. A crisis at the border isn’t one of them.” Editorialists spent the early part of this year asserting that the president’s rhetoric on the border was …

Press Rogue — April 12, 2019, 3:18 pm

Grading on a Curve

Early this week, the media pounced on the latest installment of Operation Varsity Blues, the investigation into what federal prosecutors have called the largest college admissions scam in American history, bringing renewed focus to the two B-list actors who have been implicated in the scheme. As the headlines in one leading newspaper put it: “Felicity Huffman and 13 Others to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal” and “Lori Loughlin and 15 Others Face New Charges in College Admissions Scandal.” From another news-gathering operation: “Felicity Huffman to Plead Guilty for College Cheating” and “Lori Loughlin and Hubby Just Indicted for Additional …

Press Rogue — April 5, 2019, 3:58 pm

Exit Left

The American press is obsessed with explaining Brexit. Just this week, the New York Times published four Brexit explainers. CNN has run at least eight since January, including a video that uses Legos to illustrate the United Kingdom’s customs relationship with the European Union. The Washington Post has demonstrated a similar fondness for the format, posting a glossary of Brexit terms, a pair of “What’s Next for Brexit?” videos, and a clip that promises an explanation for “confused Americans,” led by a “pop culture host.” “It’s not your fault if you don’t know what’s going on,” she says. “Because nobody …

Press Rogue — March 29, 2019, 2:34 pm

A Dark Cloud

After two years of speculation about the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the press can finally stop guessing. Last weekend, Attorney General William Barr sent Congress a summary of Robert Mueller’s findings, and in doing so, lifted “the darkest, most ominous cloud” over the Trump presidency, as the New York Times wrote. Other outlets were just as quick to style the finding of no collusion as a political victory. To a CNN analyst, the letter proved that Trump had “gone up against the greatest prosecutor of his generation, Mueller, the ultimate straight-arrow son of the establishment—and …

Press Rogue — March 22, 2019, 3:04 pm

Rain Check

When a bomb cyclone hit the Great Plains last Wednesday, the national media responded, predictably, with a few weather reports. The Washington Post told of the cyclone’s heavy winds, the “blizzard conditions” it had engendered in Colorado, and how a combination of rain and melting snow in “the transition zone between the warm and cold sectors of the storm” could pose “a flooding threat in eastern Nebraska and Minnesota, southeast South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Michigan.” Just one person, a National Weather Service meteorologist, was quoted in the story. Only once a biblical two inches of rain had run …

Press Rogue — March 15, 2019, 3:17 pm

Clique Bait

The Atlantic dropped a whale of a think piece this week, a David Frum immigration special that was posted online first thing Monday morning, drumming up condemnation, hand-wringing, and #NeverTrump praise. The article, which graces the cover of the magazine’s April issue with the eminently reasonable, “just asking!” headline “How Much Immigration Is Too Much?” appeared online with the rather more incendiary headline, “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will,” framing Frum’s proposal to cut legal immigration as a commonsense approach that splits the difference between Trump’s deplorable xenophobia and the left’s refusal to consider any restrictions whatsoever. Frum begins …

Press Rogue — March 8, 2019, 2:19 pm

A Million Turning Points

At the moment the Trump Administration reaches the point of no return, when the president’s erstwhile Republican allies join arm in arm with their Democratic brethren in Congress to remove him from office in a paroxysm of bipartisanship, at that precise moment, it is a sure bet that a New York Times reporter will be sitting in some diner in North Carolina or Nevada, asking a sample of Trump voters whether they still stand with him. We can be sure such man-on-the-street reactions will be integral to the Times’ coverage of the righteous future so frequently slavered after by its …

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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.

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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.

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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.’ ”

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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.

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Life after Life·

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

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:

$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.

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

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“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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