A short meditation on US propaganda and politics in the 20th century

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“Democracy is never a thing done,” MacLeish said. “Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.”…

…Critics called MacLeish naïve: winning a war requires deception. F.D.R., to some degree, agreed. In June, 1942, he replaced the Office of Facts and Figures with the Office of War Information.

pub. 06/2017

Published in the paper edition as “The Strategy of Truth”; audio version here.

No, the Confederate flag hasn’t always been a symbol of the South

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It wasn’t until 1948 that the Confederate flag re-emerged as a potent political symbol. The reason was the Dixiecrat revolt — when Strom Thurmond led a walkout of white Southerners from the Democratic National Convention to protest President Harry S. Truman’s push for civil rights. The Dixiecrats began to use the Confederate flag, which sparked further public interest in it.

pub. 06/2017

The politics behind right-wing climate change denial

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“Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “But the entire climate change debate has now been caught up in the broader polarization of American politics.”

“In some ways,” he added, “it’s become yet another of the long list of litmus test issues that determine whether or not you’re a good Republican.”

pub. 06/2017

The man behind a third of the Supreme Court

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Behind the scenes, during Republican Administrations, they are very engaged in identifying and recruiting for judges candidates who are ultra-conservatives—who are opposed to our rights and liberties across the board, whether it’s women, the environment, consumer protections, worker protections.” Gorsuch is likely to be only the first of Leo’s Trump Administration appointees: he is preparing for yet more vacancies on the Supreme Court, and also finding candidates for some of the hundred-plus vacancies on the lower courts, deepening his imprint on the judiciary.

pub. 04/2017

A deep dive into Trump/Russia background and history, plus believable speculation

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You’ve probably heard plenty of hushed whispers or outright panic about Russia’s information warfare against the West, but it’s seldom been put in context. We’re going to fix that in our deep dive into exactly how the Trump/Russia saga unfolded. This is one of the most consequential stories of our lifetime, and it’s not over, so get ready to bookmark this piece now.

pub. 05/2017

The men investigating Trump

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Mueller burned through chiefs of staff almost every year. “He drives at such speed that he can burn up people around him,” Comey told me of Mueller. “Some people burn people up because they’re assholes. Bob burns them up by sheer exertion.”

pub. 05/2017

What happens in a showdown between the President and the Federal Reserve chair–and how that affects the rest of us

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Under President Trump, it is possible, for the first time in a generation, to imagine a concerted attack on the central bank. Conceivably, the United States could repeat the story of the mid-1960s and ’70s, when a 15-year period of central-bank independence was brought to an end by presidential bullying. Back then, Lyndon B. Johnson summoned the Fed chairman, William McChesney Martin Jr., to his Texas ranch and shoved him around the living room while proclaiming that low interest rates were imperative in a time of war. “Boys are dying in Vietnam and Bill Martin doesn’t care!” he yelled. Martin ultimately delivered the looser money that Johnson wanted. Richard Nixon followed up by publicly smearing Martin’s successor, Arthur F. Burns, until he, too, complied. Because Martin and Burns, unlike Greenspan, buckled, the U.S. went through the most extreme bout of inflation in its peacetime history.

pub. 06/2017