If so, the joke’s on you. If there’s any ancient tale that presaged the start of the Trump Era, it’s the Voyage to Lilliput in “Gulliver’s Travels.”
Gulliver-like, Trump finds himself tied down by a thousand tiny strings, paralyzed by micro-people he can barely detect. Because of their combined power, he can’t do much of anything. If it’s the system vs. Trump, the system is winning, bigly. But it isn’t Berserkeley radicals or marching feminists in pussy hats who are leading the charge to #resist. Resistance to change is as natural in Washington as cherry blossoms in spring.
Since being promoted from private citizen to president, the only thing Trump has exercised undisputed authoritarian control over has been his Twitter account. And even that mysteriously seems to go silent at the exact times his aides are being badgered with questions about his latest tweet.
Thanks to two judges (Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii and Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland) who didn’t star in a hit reality TV show, aren’t the most famous dudes on Earth and don’t have 27 million Twitter followers, Trump’s latest executive order restricting immigration from six countries with major terrorism problems is on hold.
The judiciary is a check on the president. Trump’s predecessor found that out, too, when the Fifth Circuit court upheld a lower court order that blocked Obama’s immigration plan (which would have shielded 5 million illegal aliens from deportation). There’s no such thing as doing an end-around the system (or, if you like, the Swamp).
Even with his party in control of both houses in Congress, Trump is finding major limits to what he can do legislatively. The American Health Care Act is not going to pass (without major changes) because, as Trump himself so memorably put it, health care is “an unbelievably complex subject.” The Jenga game that is ObamaCare is so wobbly that removing a single block could cause the health-care system to come crashing down. Which is why Republicans can’t agree on whether AHCA leans too far in the direction of the free market, or not far enough.
Passing a budget? Hey, guess what? The president can’t spend a dime without Congress. As Marco Rubio so cruelly, but accurately, put it: “We do the budget here. The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.” Marco may still be little. But Congress is still big.
Liberals should have had more respect for our national institutions than to think that one man could simply have trashed them all. Yet The New York Review of Books called Trump an autocrat in a Nov. 10 story that warned, “Institutions will not save you” and said Trump was the new Vladimir Putin. Read the rest of this entry »
From 2004: A behind-the-scenes look back at the man himself—detached yet accessible, astute and prophetic, colorful and complex.
June 28, 2004 Issue: There they lie in their guttered drawers, projecting from the rosewood desk I had specially made for them: four yards of cards, each eight inches wide, five inches tall, most of them with his initials handwritten, headline style, in the top left-hand corner, from “rr’s birth zodiac—feb. 6, 1911” to “rr dies of pneumonia—june 5, 2004.” In between these two extremes, some eighteen thousand cards document whatever I was able to find out about thirty-four thousand of Ronald Reagan’s days. Which leaves sixteen thousand days unaccounted for. Lost leaves. “The leavings of a life,” as D. H. Lawrence might say.
“All the rhetorical arts—gesture, timing, comedy, pathos—were at his command.”
I once planned to show Reagan this card file, just to see him react as drawer after drawer rolled out yard by yard, green tabs demarcating his years, yellow tabs his careers, blue tabs his triumphs and disappointments. He could have looked down, as it were, on the topography of his biography, and seen the shoe salesman’s son moving from town to town across northern Illinois, in the teens of the last century; the adolescent achieving some sort of stability at Dixon High School in 1924; the Eureka College student and summer lifeguard through 1933; then, successively—each divider spaced farther from the next, as he grew in worldly importance—the Des Moines sportscaster and ardent New Dealer; the Hollywood film star; the cavalry officer and Air Corps adjutant; the postwar union leader and anti-Communist; the television host and corporate spokesman for General Electric; the governor of California, 1967-75; the twice-defeated, ultimately successful candidate for his party’s Presidential nomination; and, last, the septuagenarian statesman, so prodigiously carded that the nine tabs “1981” through “1989” stand isolated like stumps in snow.
He never visited my study, however, and on reflection I am glad he did not, because he might have been disturbed to see how far he had come in nearly eighty years, and how few more cards he was likely to generate after leaving the White House. Besides, I would have had to keep my forearm over a file more than a foot long, practically bristling with tabs descriptive of “rr the man.” Now that the man is no more, and subject to the soft focus of sentimental recall, a riffle through some of these tabs might help restore his image in all its color and complexity.
The first subsection deals with Ronald Reagan’s body. In 1988, at seventy-seven years of age, the President stood six feet one and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds, none of it flab. He boasted that any punch aimed at his abdomen would be jarringly repulsed. After a lifetime of working out with wheels and bars, he had broadened his chest to a formidably walled cavern forty-four inches in circumference. He was a natural athlete, with a peculiarly graceful Algonquin gait that brought him into rooms almost soundlessly. No matter how fast he moved (that big body could turn on a dime), he was always balanced.
One recalls how elegantly he choreographed Mikhail Gorbachev up the steps at the 1985 Geneva summit: an arabesque of dark blue flowing around awkward gray. Reagan loved to swim, ride, and foxtrot. (Doris Day remembers him as “the only man I ever knew who really liked to dance.”) Eleven weeks after nearly dying in the assassination attempt of 1981, he climbed onto the springboard at the Camp David swimming pool and threw a perfect half pike before anybody could protest.
Gorbachev once remarked on Reagan’s “balance” to me in an interview. But he used the Russian word ravnovesie in its wider sense, of psychological equilibrium. The President’s poised body and smooth yet inexorable motion telegraphed a larger force that came of a lifetime of no self-doubt (except for two years of despair in 1948-49, after Jane Wyman, his first wife, left him for boring her). Reagan redux did not care whom he bored, as long as nobody tried to stop him. His famous anecdotes, recounted with a speed and economy that were the verbal equivalent of balance, were persuasive on the first, and even the fourth, telling. But when you heard them for the fourteenth, or the fortieth, time, always with exactly the same inflections and chuckles and glances, you realized that he was a bore in the sense that a combine harvester is boring: its only purpose is to bear down upon and thresh whatever grain lies in its path. Reagan used homilies to harvest people.
He was always meticulously dressed in tailored suits and handmade shoes and boots. But he was neither a dandy nor a spendthrift. In 1976, he still stepped out in a pair of high-cut, big-tongued alligator pumps that predated the Cold War: “Do you realize what I paid for these thirty years ago?” His personal taste never advanced beyond the first affectations of the nouveau riche. Hence the Corum twenty-dollar-face wristwatch, the Countess Mara ties, the Glen checks too large or too pale, and a weekend tartan blazer that was, in Bertie Wooster’s phrase, “rather sudden, till you got used to it.” Yet Reagan avoided vulgarity, because he sported such things without self-consciousness. And he wore the plainer suits that rotated through his wardrobe just as unpretentiously. No man ever looked better in navy blue, or black tie.
On a card inscribed “alcohol”—his father’s cross—appears the comment of an old Hollywood friend: “Ronnie never had a booze problem, but once every coupla years, he wasn’t averse to a lot of drink. Its only effect was to make him more genial.” His face would flush after a mere half glass of Pinot Noir, giving rise to repeated rumors that he used rouge.
Actually, Reagan never required makeup, even when he was a movie actor. He didn’t sweat under hot lights: he basked in them. A young photographer who did a cover portrait of him in 1984 for Fortune told me, “When I walked into the Oval Office, I thought my career was made. He was just back from a long campaign swing, and looked terrible, all drained and lined. I hit him with every harsh spot I had, and etched out those wrinkles, figuring I’d do what Richard Avedon did to Dottie Parker. Know what? When my contacts came back from the darkroom, the old bastard looked like a million bucks. Taught me a real lesson. Ronald Reagan wasn’t just born for the camera. There’s something about him that film likes.”
Several of my cards itemize the President’s deafness. People who sat to his right imagined that they were privileged. In fact, he heard nothing on that side, having blown an eardrum during a shoot-out scene in one of his old movies. His left ear was not much better, so he relied increasingly on hearing aids, although their distortion pained him. One learned not to sneeze in his presence. When the room was crowded and voice levels rose, he would furtively switch off his sound box. I could tell from a slight frown in his gaze that he was lip-reading.
The quietness that insulated him was accentuated by severe myopia. As a boy, “Dutch” Reagan assumed that nature was a blur. Not until he put on his mother’s spectacles, around the age of thirteen, did he perceive the world in all its sharp-edged intricacy. He did not find it disorienting, as somebody who had been blind from birth might. Perhaps his later, Rothko-like preference for large, luminous policy blocks (as opposed to, say, Bill Clinton’s fly’s-eye view of government as a multifacetted montage, endlessly adjustable) derived from his unfocussed childhood.
Or perhaps the novelist Ray Bradbury, who also grew up four-eyed in small-town Illinois, has a more informed theory. “I often wonder whether or not you become myopic for a physical reason of not wanting to face the world,” Bradbury says in an oral history. Like Dutch, he competed with a popular, extrovert elder brother by “making happy things for myself and creating new images of the world for myself.” Reagan was not introverted, yet from infancy he had the same kind of “happy” self-centeredness that Bradbury speaks of, the same need to inhabit an imaginative construct in which outside reality was refracted, or reordered, to his liking. “I was completely surrounded by a wall of light,” Reagan wrote of his first venture onto a movie set. It was clear that the sensation was agreeable. Read the rest of this entry »
Why do people talk to themselves, and when does it become a problem?
Jerome Groopman writes: “Talking to your yogurt again,” my wife, Pam, said. “And what does the yogurt say?”
She had caught me silently talking to myself as we ate breakfast. A conversation was playing in my mind, with a research colleague who questioned whether we had sufficient data to go ahead and publish. Did the experiments in the second graph need to be repeated? The results were already solid, I answered. But then, on reflection, I agreed that repetition could make the statistics more compelling.
“Fernyhough concludes that ‘dialogic inner speech must therefore involve some capacity to represent the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the people with whom we share our world.’ This raises the fascinating possibility that when we talk to ourselves a kind of split takes place, and we become in some sense multiple: it’s not a monologue but a real dialogue.”
I often have discussions with myself—tilting my head, raising my eyebrows, pursing my lips—and not only about my work. I converse with friends and family members, tell myself jokes, replay dialogue from the past. I’ve never considered why I talk to myself, and I’ve never mentioned it to anyone, except Pam. She very rarely has inner conversations; the one instance is when she reminds herself to do something, like change her e-mail password. She deliberately translates the thought into an external command, saying out loud, “Remember, change your password today.”
Verbal rehearsal of material—the shopping list you recite as you walk the aisles of a supermarket—is part of our working memory system. But for some of us talking to ourselves goes much further: it’s an essential part of the way we think. Others experience auditory hallucinations, verbal promptings from voices that are not theirs but those of loved ones, long-departed mentors, unidentified influencers, their conscience, or even God.
“Verbal rehearsal of material—the shopping list you recite as you walk the aisles of a supermarket—is part of our working memory system. But for some of us talking to ourselves goes much further: it’s an essential part of the way we think.”
Charles Fernyhough, a British professor of psychology at Durham University, in England, studies such “inner speech.” At the start of “The Voices Within” (Basic), he also identifies himself as a voluble self-speaker, relating an incident where, in a crowded train on the London Underground, he suddenly became self-conscious at having just laughed out loud at a nonsensical sentence that was playing in his mind. He goes through life hearing a wide variety of voices: “My ‘voices’ often have accent and pitch; they are private and only audible to me, and yet they frequently sound like real people.”
Fernyhough has based his research on the hunch that talking to ourselves and hearing voices—phenomena that he sees as related—are not mere quirks, and that they have a deeper function. His book offers a chatty, somewhat inconclusive tour of the subject, making a case for the role of inner speech in memory, sports performance, religious revelation, psychotherapy, and literary fiction. He even coins a term, “dialogic thinking,” to describe his belief that thought itself may be considered “a voice, or voices, in the head.”
Discussing experimental work on voice-hearing, Fernyhough describes a protocol devised by Russell Hurlburt, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A subject wears an earpiece and a beeper sounds at random intervals. As soon as the person hears the beep, she jots notes about what was in her mind at that moment. People in a variety of studies have reported a range of perceptions: many have experienced “inner speech,” though Fernyhough doesn’t specify what proportion. For some, it was a full back-and-forth conversation, for others a more condensed script of short phrases or keywords. The results of another study suggest that, on average, about twenty to twenty-five per cent of the waking day is spent in self-talk. But some people never experienced inner speech at all.
“People in a variety of studies have reported a range of perceptions: many have experienced ‘inner speech,’ though Fernyhough doesn’t specify what proportion. For some, it was a full back-and-forth conversation, for others a more condensed script of short phrases or keywords. The results of another study suggest that, on average, about twenty to twenty-five per cent of the waking day is spent in self-talk. But some people never experienced inner speech at all.”
In his work at Durham, Fernyhough participated in an experiment in which he had an inner conversation with an old teacher of his while his brain was imaged by fMRI scanning. Naturally, the scan showed activity in parts of the left hemisphere associated with language. Among the other brain regions that were activated, however, were some associated with our interactions with other people. Fernyhough concludes that “dialogic inner speech must therefore involve some capacity to represent the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the people with whom we share our world.” This raises the fascinating possibility that when we talk to ourselves a kind of split takes place, and we become in some sense multiple: it’s not a monologue but a real dialogue.
Early in Fernyhough’s career, his mentors told him that studying inner speech would be fruitless. Experimental psychology focusses on things that can be studied in laboratory situations and can yield clear, reproducible results. Our perceptions of what goes on in our heads are too subjective to quantify, and experimental psychologists tend to steer clear of the area.
Fernyhough’s protocols go some way toward working around this difficulty, though the results can’t be considered dispositive. Being prompted to enter into an inner dialogue in an fMRI machine is not the same as spontaneously debating with oneself at the kitchen table. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING: Facebook Helps Users Block The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, with ‘B.S. Detector’, Fake News Warning PluginPosted: December 2, 2016
Over the past week, some Facebook users reported seeing content warnings next to links from established fake news domains, apparently without realizing a third party was responsible. We reported this phenomenon, later clarifying that B.S. Detector is in fact a third party plugin that both we and a number of Facebook users mistook as a testing feature. Irony!
Now, if you attempt to share a link to B.S. Detector on Facebook, you’ll be met with this message. Apparently, blocking fake news (detectors) is quite simple!
“I believe they are doing this because of TechCrunch article that came out yesterday, falsely identifying a screenshot of my plugin as a Facebook feature under development,” Daniel Sieradski, design technologist and creator of B.S. Detector, told TechCrunch. “It would seem I’ve caused them some embarrassment by showing them to be full of bull when it comes to their supposed inability to address fake news and they are punishing me for it.”
Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency
Inside a stunned White House, the President considers his legacy and America’s future.
Source: The New Yorker
This week’s New Yorker cover, “Miss Congeniality,” by Barry Blitt. Watching the debate, Blitt recognized a significant moment in the Presidential campaign. Of all of Donald Trump’s dangerous beliefs, he said, his misogyny “might just be his Achilles’ heel.” Read more about the cover here.
Source: The New Yorker
“This image was inspired by a conversation with friends about the pleasure of walking through leaves—they thought of it after they moved to San Francisco,” the illustrator John Cuneo says of “Rolling Out the Gold Carpet,” his cover for this week’s issue.
An early look at next week’s cover, “Injustice: Baltimore, 2015,” by Peter Mendelsund.
[VIDEO] New Yorker’s David Remnick: ‘It’s Deflating that Hillary Clinton thinks the American People Are Stupid’Posted: March 15, 2015
New Yorker Editor David Remnick is disappointed that Hillary Clinton’s press conference explaining her exclusive use of a private e-mail account and secret server was not more convincing.
“It’s one thing for a politician to be stupid, which Hillary Clinton is not, it’s quite another for a politician to believe that we’re stupid; and that is deflating.”
On ABC’s This Week, Redneck continued,
“A lot of people I know, and myself included, are not likely to vote for a conservative Republican come 20 months from now, and a lot of our readers are in that camp and they want Hillary Clinton to be the best Hillary Clinton that she can be in the absence of any competition in the Democratic party.”
Remnick added that…(read more)
For more than eight years, Fox News has been broadcasting a 3 A.M. program called ‘Red Eye,’ an odd and often funny late-night show that is not exactly satire, and not exactly anything else, either. Its sensibility is snarky and surreal, thanks to its host, Greg Gutfeld, a former magazine editor who adopts a tone of half-sarcastic alarm, as if he can’t decide which is more annoying: the politician he is talking about, or the fact that he has to talk about politicians.
Last month, Jon Stewart declared that he would be leaving “The Daily Show,” after sixteen years. One of many writers who paid him tribute was Oliver Morrison, in The Atlantic, who used the opportunity to consider the relationship between comedy and ideology.
“From the beginning, ‘Red Eye’ was cheerfully repetitive, finding humor in a series of running gags. Gutfeld liked to introduce guests with absurd, sexually suggestive hypotheticals that were meant to be flattering. On Greg Proops, the comedian: ‘If hilarity were a telethon, I’d do him in front of a bunch of sick kids’.”
Stewart’s former colleague, Stephen Colbert, once joked that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Morrison wondered whether political satire, too, might have a liberal bias. He noted that liberal humor would live on, thanks to programs such as “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” on HBO. But he couldn’t identify an equivalent tradition on the other side of the political spectrum. “Why,” he asked, “hasn’t a conservative Daily Show found its own place on Fox?”
“Gutfeld probably regretted offending Canadian troops and their family members, but he was probably also pleased that his biggest scandal involved the phrase ‘gorgeous white Capri pants’.”
It wasn’t clear whether Morrison meant to refer to the Fox Broadcasting Company, which isn’t known for politics, or to Fox News, which isn’t known for comedy. (Why couldn’t a conservative comedy show air on Comedy Central, the ostensibly nonpartisan network that broadcasts “The Daily Show”?) But for more than eight years, Fox News has been broadcasting a 3 A.M. program called “Red Eye,” an odd and often funny late-night show that is not exactly satire, and not exactly anything else, either. Its sensibility is snarky and surreal, thanks to its host, Greg Gutfeld, a former magazine editor who adopts a tone of half-sarcastic alarm, as if he can’t decide which is more annoying: the politician he is talking about, or the fact that he has to talk about politicians. It sounds like faint praise to call “Red Eye” the funniest and most unpredictable program on cable news, but that’s what it is—or, rather, that’s what it was.
Last week, Gutfeld announced that he, like Stewart, would be leaving late night—in his case, to develop a new weekend program for Fox News. (“Red Eye” will continue, with a different host.) In his article, Morrison discussed Gutfeld in a dismissive paragraph, judging that his humor was often “hackneyed,” and “far . . . from working in prime time.” In fact, Gutfeld is a familiar presence on the network’s two highest-rated programs: he is a regular member of the panel on “The Five,” an afternoon talk show, and a guest and occasional guest host for Bill O’Reilly, at eight. Somehow, Gutfeld—the proprietor of a program whose continued existence once seemed like both a secret and a mystery—has become one of the most prominent faces on Fox News.
From the beginning, “Red Eye” was cheerfully repetitive, finding humor in a series of running gags. Gutfeld liked to introduce guests with absurd, sexually suggestive hypotheticals that were meant to be flattering. (On Greg Proops, the comedian: “If hilarity were a telethon, I’d do him in front of a bunch of sick kids.”) For a time, Andy Levy served as the show’s pesky “ombudsman,” delivering persnickety or off-topic corrections during a “halftime report” in the middle of the show. “You said we need to weaponize space,” Levy told Gutfeld, one night, deadpan. “Actually, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits the U.S. or any other signatory nation from installing any kind of nukes or weapons of mass destruction in space, and limits the use of the moon and other celestial bodies to purely peaceful reasons.”
“…Red Eye” was often “nauseating”—not to mention inane, ramshackle, mindlessly sarcastic, sneakily smart, patently absurd, and generally refreshing. But he would be quick to point out that the show never had anything like twenty million viewers…”
Sometimes, Gutfeld tweaked cable-news conventions, as when he purported to address banking reform by convening a sixteen-person panel of experts, including familiar Fox News personalities such as John Bolton, and markedly unfamiliar ones, such as Rosie O’Donnell. As he introduced them, they appeared (or seemed to appear) live, forming a four-by-four matrix of pundit redundancy—by which point it was time, of course, for Gutfeld to thank them all, by name, and then end the segment. Other times, the show came joyfully unmoored from those conventions, as when Levy, throwing the broadcast back to Gutfeld, suddenly began quoting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:
GUTFELD: Thank you, Andy.
LEVY: Get you gone, you dwarf; you minimus, of hindering knot-grass made; you bead, you acorn. Greg.
GUTFELD: Why rebuke you him that loves you so?
LEVY: I apologize for nothing.
This last line was Levy’s catchphrase, and it also served as a constant reminder of the time, in 2009, when Gutfeld was obliged to apologize to the Canadian military, after a particularly irreverent discussion. The head of the Canadian land forces had said that the Army might need “a short operational break” lasting “at least one year” following its engagement in Afghanistan. Gutfeld had wondered whether this might not be “the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country,” adding, “The Canadian military wants to take a breather, to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants.” Gutfeld probably regretted offending Canadian troops and their family members, but he was probably also pleased that his biggest scandal involved the phrase “gorgeous white Capri pants.”
For all his seeming clumsiness, Gutfeld had a remarkable knack for saying ridiculous things without getting himself fired. (When one guest, a musician, set his electric guitar ablaze, Gutfeld was afraid that he might face punishment; he concluded, when no punishment came, that none of the executives stayed up late enough to watch his show.) On Friday night, during his final broadcast, he revisited some favorite old segments, including an excellent clip of Mick Foley, the former professional wrestler, mistaking Chris Barron, a co-founder of the gay conservative group GOProud, for Chris Barron, the lead singer of the Spin Doctors. (“I looked you up, man,” said Foley, sounding embarrassed but also disappointed—he had prepared a zinger about “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”) “I dare you to find one boring moment,” Gutfeld said, sounding uncharacteristically earnest. “Excluding this one.” Read the rest of this entry »
Surrounded by fans and protected from criticism, it’s no wonder Brian Williams became a serial fabulist
Jonah Goldberg writes: By now everyone knows about his transgressions. If even only some of the reports are true, Brian Williams is a serial embellisher, a self-aggrandizing fabulist.
No doubt everyone knows somebody like this, and if you don’t it’s probably because you’re that guy. But Williams’ case is special. This isn’t some sad Willy Loman at the end of the bar who needs to invent impressive stories about himself. If anything, he needed to not tell such stories, given that he reportedly makes more than $10 million a year to be a trusted name in news.
Yet he couldn’t stop himself.
“To walk down a street with an anchor is to be stunned both by how many people recognize them and how many viewers call out to them about specific stories. There’s a respectful familiarity different from the awe displayed to Hollywood celebrities. The anchor is treated as the citizen’s trusted guide to the news. As a result, they can feel expected to dominate discussions, to tell war stories, to play God.”
— Ken Auletta, The New Yorker’s media critic
If Kathy Griffin is the quintessential D-list celebrity, then I’m probably somewhere south of Z. But I do get recognized at airports and restaurants from time to time, mostly because of my stints on Fox News. A couple dozen times a year, someone will come up and compliment me. (Or, they’ll compliment The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, thinking I’m him.)
But you know what virtually never happens? Someone coming up to me to tell me how much they hated my column, my comments, my book, my face, or my existence. Read the rest of this entry »
Darwin’s children used the first manuscript of “On the Origin of Species” for scratch paper: http://t.co/Ygt2Wq84Zi
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) February 10, 2015
The personal story behind The New Yorker’s Charlie Hebdo cover
“I hope Obama finds some way to maneuver around this situation,” Liniers, the Argentine artist behind next week’s cover, “The Elephant in the Room,” says.
“In my first draft, I had the elephant sitting on Obama’s head,” he says. “This version is a bit more subtle.”