Conversation

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.

Conversation — July 7, 2014, 8:00 am

Ken Silverstein’s The Secret World of Oil

On the endemic corruption of the global oil industry

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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.

A new study found that fact-checking is less convincing when “truth scales” are used.

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Jesus Plus Nothing

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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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