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The New York Times International - 06 02 2018

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Is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ TV’s most radical show?
Drag has been featured in popular
culture for decades. Movies like “Kinky
Boots,” “Tootsie,” “The Birdcage” —
even “Mrs. Doubtfire” — have showcased men, some gay, some not, who
dress and perform as women. But most
tended to treat drag as high jinks. Nothing about the inner lives of queens has
hit critical mass quite like “Drag Race,”
not even the 1991 documentary “Paris Is
Burning,” which followed the black and
Latino drag ball circuit in New York during the 1980s. “It is a popular movie, but
it didn’t reach everyone the way a
weekly television show does,” said Lady
Bunny, a drag queen in her 50s who is
regarded as one of the legendary figures
of American drag culture.
“Many people have never had any interaction with a drag queen, and barely
know what it is. Anytime Middle America gets a taste of a community that
they’re not familiar with, it does normalize the L.G.B.T. experience,” Bunny
said, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people.
Charles has said that he feels he is beyond categorization — he’s black but
he’s not; he’s gay but he’s not. These
days, when someone says that, it’s usually met with a polite eye roll, the kind
reserved for out-of-touch elders. The
personal politics of this moment are almost entirely defined by naming.
There’s space for every pronoun, every
hyphen and every politically correct
But Charles belongs to a different
generation, one that fought so hard for
visibility that it feels that it has earned
the right to eschew all political decorum
and enjoy the anarchy of reinvention,
co-opting and bending language beyond
recognition. When “Drag Race” first began, it seemed like a fun window into an
underground culture, but over the nine
years it has aired, the show has evolved
to reflect America’s changing relationship to queer rights and acceptance.
Anyone familiar with reality television will recognize the premise of “Drag
Race”: Loosely modeled on “America’s
Next Top Model,” hosted by Tyra Banks,
the show features 12 (or so) contestants
who gather to compete for the title of
America’s Next Drag Superstar and a
cash prize that varies per season but can
be as much as $100,000. To determine
who will advance to the next round, the
queens are given elaborate challenges,
like creating haute-couture runway
looks from scratch or starring in music
In 2009, the year that the first season
of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was broadcast,
the buzziest reality shows on television
tended to be the most melodramatic and
cattiest — “Survivor” or “The Hills.”
“Producers were just looking for the
nasty side of the human experience, and
I definitely didn’t want to be a part of
that,” Charles told me. Randy Barbato
and Fenton Bailey, founders of the production house World of Wonder, talked
him into it. The trio had been collaborating since the 1980s, when Barbato and
Bailey were in an electro band called the
Fabulous Pop Tarts. Charles appears in
one of their videos in a skin-tight leopard dress.
At first, “Drag Race” wasn’t an easy
sell. “Everyone felt like it was too much,”
Barbato said. Even when Viacom’s
L.G.B.T. channel, LogoTV, picked it up,
Charles had to fight to realize his vision.
It was the most-watched show in the history of Logo. Last year, the show moved
to VH1 and grew significantly: The ninth
season averaged nearly 1.2 million viewers per episode, more than double that
Above, RuPaul Charles in the 1980s, when he was a fixture in New York’s club scene. Below, Charles is rarely in drag these days — only for special occasions and during his show.
of Season 8, according to data collected
by Nielsen. In 2016, Charles won an
Emmy for host of a reality show, and in
2017, he won again and the show picked
up two more. Time magazine recently
named Charles one of its 100 Most Influential People of the year.
“Drag Race” has become a staple of
modern television for the way it skewers
expectations and attitudes about gender, much as a show like “black-ish”
works to challenge stereotypes about
black families in America. That isn’t to
say contestants on “Drag Race” don’t
bicker or trade petty insults, as in other
reality-TV shows, but the program doesn’t leave viewers with the same existential dread about the future of humanity as, say, any of the “Real Housewives”
Each season is imbued with a sense of
optimism in the face of relentless adversity; Charles believes that is central to
the gay and queer experience. “There is
a sisterhood here,” he told me. “It has to
do with the shared experience of being
outsiders and making a path for ourselves.”
Amid the glitz and glamour of drag,
the show doesn’t obscure the violence
and terror that accompanies the life of
the marginalized. When I asked Charles
if there was a deliberate decision to infuse the show with overt political messaging, he shook his head. “It’s inherent
in our experience. We don’t have to do
much to infuse a consciousness into the
show. It is such a part of our story, and
we walk with it.”
RuPaul Andre Charles was born in
November 1960. His parents were poor,
and Charles’s mother suffered from a
debilitating depression throughout his
youth. “My folks, and other folks in the
South, had such traumatic experiences.
I was able to dissect and deconstruct
some of my feelings. I could afford to do
it. They couldn’t afford to do it.”
In the summer of 1976, his sister
Renetta and her husband, Laurence,
moved to Atlanta and invited Charles,
who was 15, to join them. “It was like my
bar mitzvah,” Charles told me. “Southern culture has always had a place for
eccentrics. I was ready to bust out and
become who I am today.” He saw his first
drag performance: Crystal LaBeija, an
icon in drag-queen history, was singing
Donna Summer in black fishnets and a
bustier. Charles was floored. He started
bands, made music videos with friends,
appeared on public-access variety
Each season is imbued with
optimism in the face of adversity;
RuPaul Charles believes that is
central to the gay experience.
shows and worked as a go-go dancer.
When Charles settled in Manhattan in
the late 1980s, drag was a full-on cultural
phenomenon in the city, and Charles
was determined to be at its center. At 28,
he became a fixture as a dancer at downtown clubs like Pyramid, Tunnel and
Limelight. His popularity and career exploded when he teamed up with a D.J.
named Larry Tee for the roving underground party Love Machine. It quickly
became a trendy scene. By then, Charles
had transformed his look from what he
called “fright drag” to something much
more glamorous. Charles released the
album “Supermodel of the World” on
Tommy Boy Records, a label that had introduced acts like De La Soul and Queen
Latifah. The album featured the song
“Supermodel (You Better Work),” in
which he gave models runway advice
like “shantay,” a word Charles described
as casting a bewitching spell. The song
became a club anthem.
Since “Drag Race” first aired in 2009,
the conversation around identity and
gender has shifted tremendously. For all
the show has done to challenge its audience’s notions of masculinity and femininity, it has shied away, until the most
recent season, from any serious discussion about the ways the drag community intersects the transgender one. There
have been transgender queens on the
show, but the topic is a touchy one in the
drag community. For most drag artists,
the point is the performance; it is not
their sole identity. But for those queens
who identify as transgender or nonbinary, their stage persona is not necessarily a performance. The centerpiece
of the show is the contestants’ transforming themselves into queens, and
then, after each competition, taking off
their wigs and removing synthetic
breasts to reappear as men.
For years, “Drag Race” prioritized entertainment over any nuances of the culture. Much of the queens’ vernacular,
body language and movements come
from the drag world’s — especially
white queens’ — interpretation of black
femininity. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that phenomenon, despite how
much I enjoy the show. In his essay
“ ‘Draguating’ to Normal,” the academic
Josh Morrison argues that by using the
bodies of women, minorities and other
marginalized groups, “through an often
loving, well-intentioned impersonation
of them,” drag “unintentionally does
them discursive violence.”
Throughout my conversations with
Charles, I got the sense that he is a sensitive person who is actively trying to
evolve with the times. “Every season
the girls come and they challenge me. A
new nose contour technique or a new
way to see themselves and identity, and
it helps me stay on my game and stay
engaged in the conversation.” Last season, midway through the show, a queen
in her late 30s named Peppermint revealed she was transgender, the first
time being transgender became a significant part of a character’s narrative arc.
Peppermint talked openly about her
transition with Charles and the other
Peppermint noted the ways the popularity of “Drag Race” has bolstered an
entire community, and in turn, an entire
economy. In the ‘90s, she recalled, it was
only lucrative to be a drag queen if you
were one of the chosen queens — Lady
Bunny, Candis Cayne, Miss Understood
and, of course, RuPaul. She reminisced
about doing drag seven days a week to
pay the rent. “Really, only 10 or 15 queens
were benefiting,” she said. “And now the
show has given so much exposure that it
gives everyone a chance to earn very
good money and recoup all the investments that we’ve put in over the years —
you know, the money we’ve spent on
glitter and rhinestones.”
Charles frequently described his relationship to drag as “the Superman to my
Clark Kent.” The first time he stepped
into his drag persona, Charles felt fully
alive, electric with a power to command
attention and desire. One day his therapist told him he could be Superman regardless of his attire. “She said, ‘The
power you feel in drag is available to you
24/7,’ ” he told me. That realization, he
said, is what he is trying to relay in each
season of the show, to both the queens
and the viewers. Charles is rarely in
drag these days — only for special occasions, and during the judging and elimination rounds on the show — a shift that
he made about a decade ago.
Charles has been with his husband,
Georges LeBar, since 1994, when they
met on the dance floor at Limelight. On
their second date, they flew from London to Düsseldorf, Germany, on Elton
John’s private jet. They married in early
2017, 23 years after they met. The couple
split their time between Los Angeles
and Wyoming, where LeBar, a ruggedly
handsome man somehow taller than
Charles, has a 60,000-acre ranch. It’s a
reprieve from the celebrity status of
Charles’s world.
I arrived at a Midtown Manhattan
convention hall early on a Sunday morning in September to find the new drag
economy, the one that Peppermint
noted, at work. In 2015, Charles and
World of Wonder created RuPaul’s
DragCon, a multiday convention about
all things drag. Charles had mentioned
to me it several times — he is nothing if
not media-savvy — as the future of his
empire and a way to widen the culture of
drag beyond a television show and
nighttime acts.
Hordes of young people swarmed
around the queens, eager to have their
photos taken with them. The atmosphere was the freakiest I’d ever seen in
Midtown during daylight. I flashed back
to a conversation with Charles when he
told me about the early days of throwing
wild, gender-bending parties in New
York. People came out for the simple
sake of experimenting. They dressed
weird and let loose on the dance floor —
the only place such liberation was possible back then.
At one point, I spied a pack of children,
of indeterminate gender, outfitted in
suits and dresses. They could have been
dressed for the occasion, or just in their
daily wear. Amid of sea of six- and seven-foot queens in stilletos, they stood
out, doll-size and adorable. Their cuteness drew gasps and oohs, but I also
couldn’t help thinking that we were also
captivated by them for another reason:
They felt like a glimpse of a future — and
maybe even, someday, the new normal.
Adapted from an article that originally
appeared in The New York Times Magazine.
Writer was the conscience of Israel’s founding generation
“The Last Sea,” about Jewish immigration to Palestine, and “Flames in the
Ashes,” about Jewish resistance during
World War II.
As a journalist he covered, in 1961, the
trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war
criminal who oversaw the lethal logistics of the Holocaust. Eichmann had
been captured by Israeli agents in Argentina the year before.
For many Israelis, the trial was the
first time they heard the shocking testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Mr.
Gouri said it was only during the trial
that he understood what had happened
to the Jews.
After fighting as a reservist in Jerusalem in the 1967 war, caught up in the euphoria of victory, Mr. Gouri joined the
Land of Israel Movement, a political organization of intellectuals from across
the Israeli political spectrum who advocated holding on to all the newly conquered territories. Mr. Gouri later
changed his mind and left the movement.
In more recent years, he became increasingly critical of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and of what he saw as rising
nationalism and religious extremism in
some sectors of Israeli society.
Mr. Gouri seemed anguished by the
lack of any resolution between Palestinians and Jews in the competition over
the land, as if the 1948 and 1967 wars had
never ended. When people asked Mr.
Gouri how he was, his daughter Hamutal related, he would reply, “I fare as well
as my people.”
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Haim Gouri wrote of the terrible sacrifice of war, and of memory and camaraderie.
A celebrated and often critical voice of
Israel’s founding generation and its conscience, he also wrote of the wrenching
inner dilemmas, complexities and contradictions of the Zionist enterprise that
tormented him.
Mr. Gouri, who was also a journalist,
author and documentary filmmaker,
died before dawn on Wednesday at his
home in Jerusalem. He was 94. The
youngest of his three daughters, Hamutal, said, “His body was exhausted.”
Mr. Gouri was often described as the
last of Israel’s national poets. One of his
early poems, “I Am a Civil War,” encapsulated the search for elusive justice
with the line, “And there, those in the
right fire on the others in the right.”
Rendered economically in five words
in Hebrew, it was “the most important
line I have ever written in my life,” Mr.
Gouri said in an interview last year.
He grew up in a socialist Zionist family, spending his childhood in the 1920s
and ¢30s in Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city
in what was then British-ruled Palestine. As a young man he joined the Palmach, the elite strike force of the Hagana underground, which fought in the
1940s to establish the state of Israel.
Some of his most beloved poems com-
memorated the 1948 war surrounding
Israel’s creation, during which he fought
in the Negev Desert.
Those include “Hareut” — the word is
Hebrew for friendship or comradeship
— and “Bab al-Wad,” a haunting memorial to those who fell in battle trying to
open the road to Jerusalem. Set to music, the poems have become hallowed
anthems for Israeli Jews, secular hymns
to fellowship and the emerging identity,
language and culture of a young but divided country.
“Through your pen we learned whole
chapters of the history of the state of Israel,” Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, said on Thursday in a eulogy as Mr.
Gouri’s coffin lay in state in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Theater.
The theater stands a block from Mr.
Gouri’s home of more than 50 years, a
modest book-lined apartment on the
third floor of a walk-up building in a
leafy, genteel neighborhood of his
adopted city.
“For you,” Mr. Rivlin added, “the Hebrew Israeli life was always a wonder
not to be taken for granted, a lesson to be
The Hagana sent Mr. Gouri to Hungary in 1947 to help Holocaust survivors in
displaced-persons camps reach Palestine, an experience that deeply affected
As a filmmaker, Mr. Gouri was best
known for his work on a trilogy of documentaries, notably “The 81st Blow”
(1974), a film about the Holocaust that
was nominated for an Academy Award.
The two others, made in the 1980s, were
Haim Gouri in Jerusalem last June. Some of his most beloved poems commemorated
the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, during which he fought in the Negev Desert.
Mr. Gouri fought a final battle in the
fall of 2016, gathering with other former
commandos of the Palmach for weekly
protests in a forest clearing at Bab alWad, known in Hebrew as Shaar Hagai.
On the road to Jerusalem, it is where the
Palmach fought some of its toughest
Their objective was to overturn a government decision to dedicate the site in
memory of Rehavam Zeevi, a former Israeli general turned right-wing politician, and to preserve the legacy of
their fallen comrades.
Mr. Zeevi, who was assassinated in
2001 by Palestinian militants, had fought
with the Palmach but not on the road to
Jerusalem. He had been accused of having dealings with criminals and, posthumously, of sexual assault. The government eventually acceded to the group’s
Mr. Gouri was born Haim Gurfinkel in
Tel Aviv on Oct. 9, 1923. His parents, Israel and Gila Gurfinkel, had arrived on a
ship from the Black Sea city of Odessa in
1919. The family Hebraized their surname to Gouri at some point. His father,
who belonged to Mapai, a precursor of
the Israeli Labor Party, was a member of
the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament,
from 1949 until 1965, the year he died.
As a young teenager, Haim moved to
Kibbutz Beit Alfa, in northern Israel, to
live out his pioneering socialist ideals.
He studied at the Kadoorie Agricultural
High School at the same time as Yitzhak
Rabin, who would become prime minister. Mr. Gouri later studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the
In 1952 he married Aliza Becker, who
was from Jerusalem. They had met in
1948 at a hospital when Mr. Gouri was
visiting a wounded commander. Ms.
Becker, then 18, was an officer there
tending to casualties.
Mr. Gouri began his journalistic career writing for left-wing party newspapers before moving on to Davar, a nowdefunct Hebrew daily. Besides his
daughter Hamutal, he is survived by his
wife; two other daughters, Yael and
Noa; and six grandchildren.
Mr. Gouri also wrote poems about
love and childhood and, in his later
years, his mortality. His last book of Hebrew poems, published in 2015, was titled “Though I Wished for More of
In the title poem, he wrote:
Know that time, enemies, the wind and
the water
Will not erase you
You will continue, made up of letters
That is not a little
Something, after all, will remain of
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Court frees
heir held in
bribery case
After his burial, he turned up alive
Afghan policeman’s family
thought he had been killed
in a Taliban bombing
The war in Afghanistan takes about five
dozen lives a day.
Sometimes the bodies have just one
bullet hole. Other times, after intense
explosions, there is no body left at all. In
between, families receive pieces of flesh
and bone in a sealed coffin — something
to help them find closure.
And every once in a while, the dead
turn up alive.
On the edges of a crowded Kabul cemetery last week, friends dug a grave for
Ahmad Tameem, 22, a police officer, as
about 200 mourners took cover from the
snow under a tent. Officer Tameem’s relatives shouldered his sealed coffin up a
winding, muddy lane for a brief final audience with his mother, then lowered
him to rest near his father’s grave.
At home, loved ones prepared for the
rituals of moving on. Someone opened
the door of a cage to set Officer
Tameem’s two pet parrots free. Large,
grainy pictures of him were printed with
“Martyr Ahmad Tameem” in red ink.
Notices for a memorial service were
sent out.
Tameem’s cousin, was buying groceries
for a meal after the memorial service
when he received a call.
“Tameem is alive,” one of Officer
Tameem’s brothers said.
Mr. Qaseem thought it a cruel joke.
“I just got a call from the intelligence
agency hospital,” the brother continued.
“He has become conscious, and he borrowed the doctor’s phone to call me.”
Mr. Qaseem rushed to the hospital.
There was his cousin, badly burned and
breathing with the help of a ventilator as
he went in and out of consciousness. But
he was not dead.
Mr. Qaseem called home.
“Listen carefully to what I am about to
tell you, and please don’t scream,” Mr.
Qaseem instructed one of Officer
Tameem’s sisters. He was worried that
someone might drop dead from shock.
“Tameem is alive,” Mr. Qaseem told
her. “We found him at the hospital.”
There was a moment of silence. And
then she screamed. Mr. Qaseem was
briefly forgotten. He could hear only
screams of joy. One of the sisters fainted.
“Maybe it was the prayer of those parrots who were freed from the cage,”
Ghulam Naqshband, an older neighbor,
said with a smile.
Officer Tameem was on duty in Kabul
on Jan. 27 when a Taliban bomber drove
an ambulance past two checkpoints on a
busy street and detonated explosives.
More than 100 people were killed and at
least 200 wounded.
Ahmad Tameem’s grave in Kabul, center, was draped in the Afghan flag last week. After an attack near his station, relatives had gone to every city hospital and found no trace of him.
Speaking from his hospital bed as a
nurse attended to his neck wound, Officer Tameem said he does not remember
the moment of the blast. When he regained consciousness, he said his first
thought was to make sure his mother
did not hear about his wounds — not
knowing his family had already given
him a burial.
“I had asked them not to tell my
mother about my situation, so she doesn’t die. I am her youngest son,” Officer
Tameem said.
After each attack in Kabul, the bodies
arrive at the city’s forensic medicine department.
Families go there to identify and collect the remains. Often, there is not
enough to identify — just a torso, or
limbs. The department does not have
the capabilities for DNA testing.
Some unclaimed bodies remain at the
morgue for weeks or months. Then, quietly, municipal workers pick them up for
The explosion that wounded Officer
Tameem was so large that Mohammed
Roeen, another of the officer’s cousins,
said he could see the smoke from his
rooftop across town. Once it became
clear that it had happened near the officer’s duty station, the search began. Officer Tameem’s phone was switched off.
Relatives went from the site of the attack to every city hospital.
They found no trace of him.
Mr. Roeen said they managed to reach
the company commander. “He said:
‘Look, he was standing here. This is the
container. This is where the car bomb
detonated. How can we expect him to be
alive?’ ”
After two days of searching, they returned to the morgue. The bodies that
remained were in bad shape. Mr.
Qaseem said they settled on a torso that
was skinny and young — like Officer
Tameem’s. The forensic staff members
did some blood tests and said it was him.
They said they would wash and prepare
him in a coffin for pickup the next morning. The government gave the family a
death payment of about $2,000.
Then Mr. Qaseem turned to the more
difficult task: breaking the news to Officer Tameem’s mother and sisters.
“We prepared and convinced his
mother that this was God’s will, that the
women should not open the coffin,” Mr.
Qaseem said.
When the coffin was placed in the
yard, the women wailed and threw
themselves at it. Quickly, the men lifted
the coffin again and made their way to
the cemetery. No one knows whom they
As Officer Tameem’s family and
friends celebrate his second life, another
family is still searching.
After the call of good news, Officer
Tameem’s mother and sisters went to
the hospital. But they had to wait outside for about two hours because the Afghan president was visiting the
When his mother got in to visit her
son, many in the room were trying to
keep it brief so that the emotions would
not overwhelm Officer Tameem.
“They were both crying,” Mr. Qaseem
said. “Tameem had tears, and he was
able to move his hand.”
With her son given a second life, Officer Tameem’s mother has left for their
village in Kapisa Province. Four others
from their village were killed in the ambulance bombing, and she wanted to
mourn with their families.
Mr. Naqshband, the neighbor, said
that distant relatives who had not been
informed of the twist still arrive at the
house to pay their respects.
“Even today, I was just standing here
and a woman came asking for directions: ‘Where is the house of martyr
Tameem?’ ” Mr. Naqshband said. “I
said: ‘He is alive. Don’t you go into their
house saying martyr.’ ”
Officer Tameem is on the mend,
though his wounds are concerning.
When healed, he wants to return to the
force. “I want to go back to my work,
God willing,” he said. “I have given an
oath that I will serve.”
Around Kabul, word has gotten out
about the officer’s survival. Mr. Qaseem
said hospital workers ask visitors if they
are there to see “the dead policeman
who became alive.”
Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting.
Waltzes and wurst, with protesters along the way
A political subtext lurks
behind the dazzling scenes
of Vienna’s ball season
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Black tie and satin gowns. Horse-drawn
carriages. Waltzes, cha-chas and tangos
until the wee hours. High-society revelers scarfing down wienerwurst with
their fingers.
And now, police blockades and marching protesters.
This is peak ball season in Vienna,
A tradition deeply embedded in the
Viennese soul, the formal dance events
of the ball season are held by the city’s
professional guilds, political parties and
universities from November until Lent,
with the highest concentration of parties from early January until the end of
Many are stiff high-society affairs,
like the New Year’s Ball and the Opera
Ball — the “official ball of the Federal
Republic of Austria,” which dates in its
various forms to the 1800s, and this year
takes place on Thursday.
Others, like the Confectioners’ Ball,
Coffee Brewers’ Ball and Flower Ball, all
held last month, are just as formal but
attended by a wider audience.
A political subtext often lurks behind
the dazzling scenes, but this year’s season has proved especially fraught. On
Jan. 26, around 3,000 police officers
blocked off a broad section of the city
center to prevent protesters from clashing with members of the right-wing
Freedom Party, who were attending the
Academics’ Ball in the former imperial
The Vienna faction of the party, which
returned to government last year, has
sponsored the Academics’ Ball since
2013. Attendees include members of
Austrian right-wing fraternal societies,
who wear pillbox hats to show their affiliation. Outside the venue, 8,000 to 10,000
Debutantes before the 61st Vienna Opera Ball last year. Right, demonstrating against the right-wing Freedom Party’s presence at the Academics’ Ball in Vienna last month.
protesters marched through the streets,
carrying banners and signs saying “Resistance” and “Don’t Allow Nazis to
The night after the Academics’ Ball,
more than 3,000 guests attended the Vienna Ball of Sciences, which was
founded in 2015 in part as a “counterball” to the Academics’ Ball, in a subtle
protest by university rectors and scientists. The guests filled the spired City
Hall’s vaulted, chandeliered ballroom,
colonnaded hallways and red-carpeted
The original idea for the ball came
from scientists’ irritation at the right
wing’s use of the word academic, therefore “hijacking” the reputation of education and research, said Oliver Lehmann,
a co-chairman of the Ball of Sciences’ organizing committee. He added, “We’re
about diversity, openness and excellence.”
Case in point: Some of the women in
attendance glided over the dance floors
in floor-length saris or accessorized
their gowns with matching hijabs.
Politics aside, the balls transform this
At this time of year, women emerge
from the city’s salons with elaborate
coifs. Crash courses in ballroom dancing
are booked to capacity. Tux rentals become scarce though most locals own
their own formal wear.
“I own four and a half ball gowns,”
joked Monika Kanokova, a communications consultant who attended her first
event, the Flower Ball, at 18.
Each ball requires a certain look.
“The Opera Ball is very traditional,
with classic, tight hairstyles” said Danijel Vladimir, the proprietor of All About
Hair, an intimate salon in Vienna’s tony
First District. “The others are more casual and modern — blowouts or loose updos. The Hunters’ Ball is braids, braids,
Debutantes bring their required tiaras to their styling appointments,
where they’re affixed with copious hair
teasing, hair spray and many, many
bobby pins.
Most balls feature food stands in addition to booked table service, making
gown-clad guests dipping pairs of long
sausages into mustard and horseradish
a common sight — especially after the
midnight quadrille, a coordinated dance
that fills the ballroom.
As much as Viennese balls mirror
their city’s complex history, intricate social hierarchies and political affiliations,
they are also big business. A recent
study published by Vienna’s Chamber of
Commerce predicted that a record
505,000 people would attend balls this
season, spending an estimated 139 million euros at the balls alone, or about
$173 million.
At the Ball of Sciences, as at other
balls, guests floated from room to room,
which the Viennese call “flanieren.” An
orchestra played waltzes in the cathedral-like grand ballroom of City Hall
while a jazz ensemble entertained in a
smaller hall. Yet another space featured
a D.J. playing disco tracks and walls festooned with neon-painted artwork by
students from the city’s University of
Applied Arts.
Vienna’s new mayor-elect, Michael
Ludwig, dropped by, as did Michael
Häupl, who is retiring as mayor after
nearly 24 years and is a biologist.
The pinnacle of peak season is the
Opera Ball, which always takes place on
the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
The sole ball held in Vienna’s opera
house, it attracts 5,000 guests, who wit-
ness around 150 debutantes in snowwhite gowns waltz with their partners, a
rehearsed and tightly choreographed
extravaganza televised by Austria’s national broadcaster, ORF.
The event also attracts dignitaries
and celebrities. President Alexander
van der Bellen will attend this year, as
will Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The actress Melanie Griffith is also scheduled
to attend.
At the Ball of Sciences, Caroline Weinberg, a national co-chairwoman of the
March for Science in Washington, was
attending at the invitation of Mr.
Lehmann, of the organizing committee.
In the V.I.P. area, she met Austrian scientists and politicians, and “talked politics in formal wear.”
Could she waltz? Not as well as the locals.
Yet the experience was remarkable
“It was like walking into a time machine,” she marveled. “I had this image
in my head of what a Viennese waltz
looks like, because I watched old movies.”
“I didn’t expect it to be like that,” she
said. “But it was.”
Lee Jae-yong, heir to South Korea’s
Samsung corporate empire, walked out
of prison on Monday after an appeals
court reduced and suspended his sentence for bribery and corruption.
His release deals a blow to prosecutors who had hoped Mr. Lee’s original
five-year sentence would send a signal
that the courts would no longer mete out
only light punishments for lawbreaking
corporate titans. Other senior executives at some of South Korea’s biggest
companies have been accused and convicted on corruption charges over the
years only to receive reduced sentences
or get pardoned entirely. Many South
Koreans see that kid-glove treatment as
proof that major corporations hold too
much sway over the country.
Mr. Lee’s case is now likely to go to the
country’s Supreme Court, where prosecutors are expected to ask that the appeals court ruling be overturned, and
his attorneys are likely to continue to
ask that the charges against him be
thrown out.
Mr. Lee — the 49-year-old de facto
leader of the conglomerate and vice
chairman of Samsung Electronics, the
empire’s most valuable business —
spent nearly a year in custody. He was
arrested on charges that he paid bribes
to a confidante of Park Geun-hye, then
South Korea’s president, in exchange for
political favors. Mr. Lee’s attorneys have
said the payments were coerced.
In August, a lower court found Mr. Lee
guilty of paying $6.7 million in bribes to
help bankroll the equestrian career of a
daughter of Choi Soon-sil, a longtime
confidante of Ms. Park. It said Mr. Lee
provided the bribes to win Ms. Park’s
Lee Jae-yong at court on Monday, after
nearly a year in custody. A lower court had
found him guilty of bribing a confidante of
the former South Korean president.
help in strengthening his control of Samsung, which he is inheriting from his father, Lee Kun-hee, the company’s chairman, who is in a coma. He was sentenced to five years in prison, an unusually lengthy term for a senior South
Korean business leader.
But the appeals court on Monday
ruled that about half of the sum cannot
be seen as bribes. It also reversed several of the lower-court decisions, including the conviction of Mr. Lee on charges
of violating the country’s laws limiting
the use of foreign currency in connection with the payments. It reduced his
sentence to two and a half years and suspended it, leading to his release.
Mr. Lee, wearing a dark suit and no
tie, emerged from the court with a slight
smile, then was taken to the prison in
Seoul, the capital, where he had been
held since his arrest. He emerged
shortly afterward as a free man.
“I want to say once again how sorry I
am that I have failed to present a good
image of myself,” Mr. Lee told reporters
after he walked out of prison. “The past
one year has been a valuable time for me
to reflect upon myself. I will be more
careful in the future.”
He said he was going to visit his father
in the hospital.
Samsung is the largest and most powerful of South Korea’s chaebol, as the
country’s giant family-run companies
are known. Its businesses include
smartphones, microchips, insurance
and shipbuilding.
The chaebol have dominated the
country’s economy for decades. Early
South Korean governments gave them
tax benefits, cheap electricity and protection from overseas competition. In
return, the chaebol were expected to
contribute to government projects. Over
the years, executives at a number of
chaebol have been accused of funneling
money to the coffers of officials and their
relatives and associates.
South Korea has often responded with
light punishments for business leaders
caught in corruption scandals. Many
chaebol bosses convicted of crimes have
been pardoned or given suspended sentences. Some have even continued to
run their empires from behind bars. Mr.
Lee’s father has been convicted of
white-collar crimes twice — and twice
he has been spared prison time.
Raymond Zhong reported from Hong
Kong, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul,
South Korea. Park Jeong-eun contributed reporting from Seoul.
Vying for power, 2 collide in South Africa
New A.N.C. chief’s election
leads to calls for unpopular
president to step down
It is, in South Africa’s political parlance,
the season of the two centers of power.
In December, Cyril Ramaphosa was
elected leader of the African National
Congress and, given the party’s pre-eminence, he immediately became the nation’s president in waiting.
That left President Jacob Zuma — the
former leader of the party who had
backed Mr. Ramaphosa’s rival — still in
charge of the government, possibly until
the next national elections in mid-2019.
And now the single question driving
the politics of South Africa has become
one of timing. When will Mr. Zuma cease
to be South Africa’s president?
As that question hangs in the air, the
people around the two men have to decide which one to back, how strongly
and when. It is as if an older sun has lost
its gravitational pull to a newer one —
and the orbiting planets, in some confusion, have been realigning themselves.
Under South Africa’s Constitution, the
Parliament elects the president. That
leaves the A.N.C., which dominates the
legislative body, with two options if it
wants to recall Mr. Zuma before the end
of his term in 2019: Order him to step
down and avoid bringing the matter to
Parliament; or allow the anti-Zuma
camp to join forces with opposition lawmakers to impeach him.
Mr. Ramaphosa’s allies are pressing
Mr. Zuma — whose corruption-plagued
eight years in office have damaged
South Africa’s economy and reputation
— to step down as early as possible. His
successor, they argue, should be the one
to deliver the state of the nation address,
scheduled for Thursday, to give the nation a badly needed reset.
Among Mr. Zuma’s supporters, the reaction has been more complicated. A
few high-profile former allies of the
president, including the finance and police ministers, have leapt into Mr.
Ramaphosa’s camp with head-spinning
Others have dug in, clearly hoping to
extend Mr. Zuma’s presidency — and
their own power — as long as they can.
The vast majority of officials, though,
appear open to negotiations with Mr.
Ramaphosa, who has made his career —
in labor, business and politics — by being the best negotiator in the room.
Mr. Ramaphosa, known for always
keeping in mind the political long game,
has been carefully nudging Mr. Zuma
even as the new leader of the A.N.C.
seeks to unite a fractured party behind
him. The matter of Mr. Zuma’s departure, he told the South African news media, should be approached with “maturity” and “decorum.”
“We should never do it in a way that is
going to humiliate President Zuma,”
said Mr. Ramaphosa, who has been the
nation’s deputy president since 2014.
Even as negotiations over Mr. Zuma’s
departure continue, power has begun to
shift in real ways. Mr. Ramaphosa led
the nation’s delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, effectively acting as South Africa’s leader
on the world stage.
More significantly, there have been
domestic developments that would have
been highly unlikely before Mr.
Ramaphosa’s election as party leader in
At some state enterprises, which have
been the source of much public corruption in recent years, Mr. Zuma’s allies
have been quickly replaced by respected officials chosen by Mr.
Ramaphosa. State prosecutors have begun investigating some senior political
allies of the president, along with the
Guptas, a powerful family with close
business ties with Mr. Zuma’s relatives
and his inner circle.
“It does reflect the changing of the
guard at the A.N.C. — it has freed up
some of the good pockets in some of the
law-enforcement agencies to start acting,” said David Lewis, the executive
director of Corruption Watch, a nonprofit organization, adding that state prosecutors and police investigators tend to
be heavily influenced by politics in
South Africa.
Mr. Zuma’s fate now lies with the
A.N.C.’s top leadership, which remains
divided, with an edge in Mr.
Ramaphosa’s favor, political analysts
While Mr. Zuma’s allies initially kept
quiet, some have begun pushing back in
recent days, including his two supporters among the party’s half-dozen most
senior leaders. Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general, said that Mr. Zuma
would serve out his full term until elections next year.
The secretary general, Ace Magashule, denied news reports that the party’s leaders had decided to remove Mr.
Zuma, adding of Mr. Ramaphosa’s allies,
“It’s only factional leaders who want to
be populist, the ones who are loved by
the papers, the ones who don’t know the
A.N.C., who are making noise outside.”
Mr. Magashule, who is also the leader
of Free State Province, spoke a few days
after the police raided his office there in
search of documents related to a Guptalinked dairy farm project thought to
have been used to misappropriate public funds.
He spoke at a rally in Mr. Zuma’s
home province, KwaZulu-Natal, where
loyalists voiced strong support. The
province, which is the A.N.C.’s biggest
source of votes nationally, remains one
of Mr. Zuma’s strongest cards in his negotiations with Mr. Ramaphosa — as
does the party’s youth league, which
held the rally.
Mandla Shange, the youth league’s
spokesman in KwaZulu-Natal, dismissed any talk of removing Mr. Zuma.
“That’s not a decision you just take,”
he said in an interview. “There must be a
transition plan between President Zuma
and President Ramaphosa. That is why
President Zuma’s term of office ends in
2019, so we expect President Zuma to
continue to be president until 2019.”
But analysts say that because of the
survival instinct of the A.N.C., which has
governed South Africa since the end of
apartheid in 1994, it is unlikely that Mr.
Zuma will be allowed to serve out his full
Top, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, center, risks facing impeachment if he tries to hang onto power until the 2019 election.
Above, the new African National Congress leader Cyril Ramaphosa, second from right, has been nudging Mr. Zuma to leave office.
term. The longer Mr. Zuma stays in
power, the harder it will be for Mr.
Ramaphosa to rebuild the party’s brand
before next year’s elections.
“Remember, all they want at the end
of the day is to make sure that the A.N.C.
can win elections,” said Lukhona Mnguni, a political scientist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “It’s not that they
want Zuma gone because of misgovernance. They want him gone so that they,
as A.N.C. members, can remain at the
top of South African politics. It’s in their
best interest that he goes, but they have
to manage the timing and any fallout.”
If Mr. Zuma hangs on to power, he
risks facing impeachment in Parliament
after a recent ruling by the nation’s highest court.
The A.N.C., which holds more than 60
percent of parliamentary seats, would
face two unattractive options: defending a deeply unpopular president or impeaching a leader it has steadfastly supported for the past eight years.
Mr. Zuma also faces other embarrassing legal challenges, including 783
counts of corruption related to an arms
deal before he became president in the
1990s when he was a top party leader. He
has successfully avoided prosecution
over the years, and he argued again last
week that he should not be indicted.
State prosecutors are expected to make
a decision this month.
How and when Mr. Zuma leaves office, experts say, will influence how
much Mr. Ramaphosa can reinvent the
A.N.C. before next year’s elections.
Mr. Ramaphosa and his allies enjoy
strong support among urban, middleclass black voters who, disillusioned by
Mr. Zuma’s presidency and with the party’s transformation from Nelson Mandela’s heroic liberation movement to an
organization associated with corruption
and mismanagement, began abandoning the A.N.C. in recent years.
In local elections in 2016, the A.N.C.
lost control of most of the country’s major cities as those disenchanted voters
backed the opposition or stayed home.
Mr. Ramaphosa needs to win them back.
“The A.N.C.’s continued, foolhardy inability to remove President Zuma
clearly indicates that the A.N.C. cannot
be trusted and cannot be relied upon to
bring about the changes promised by its
newly elected leadership,” Bantu
Holomisa, leader of the opposition
United Democratic Movement, said in a
news conference.
In one suburb that turned against the
A.N.C. in 2016, Danny Zitha, a retired
high school teacher, was so angry with
the party that he vowed never to back it
again. But recent changes in the A.N.C.
have softened his position.
He was disappointed that the A.N.C.’s
top leaders had not tried to remove Mr.
Zuma at their first meeting in January.
But he was impressed by prosecutors
moving against some of Mr. Zuma’s political and business allies, and the thought
of returning to the A.N.C. was no longer
inconceivable to him.
“Once Ramaphosa gets rid of Zuma
and all those corrupt guys are taken to
task, perhaps then I can have another
way of thinking — but only then,” Mr.
Zitha said. “Zuma must be toothless. But
right now he still has teeth. He can chew
whatever he wants to chew.”
Fears for democracy rise as Kenya silences dissent
The events in Kenya are a
stunning about-face in a country
praised mere months ago as a
shining example of democracy.
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The most widely watched television stations in Kenya are shuttered, and the
government has defied a court order to
return them to the air. Opposition politicians are under arrest, and journalists
have also been threatened with jail. And
the government has officially designated some of its opponents “an organized
criminal group.”
“This is a new crisis for democracy,”
said Willy Mutunga, a former chief justice of the Kenyan Supreme Court, who
left the bench in 2016. “Defying a court
order is subverting the rule of law.”
The events in Kenya over the past
week are a stunning about-face in a
country praised mere months ago as a
shining example of democracy, when
the Supreme Court overturned a presidential election, and the winner, President Uhuru Kenyatta, agreed to abide
by the ruling. That case was hailed as a
powerful display of judicial independence and a win for the rule of law.
But now many Kenyans fear their
country is sliding away from democracy.
The coming days, they say, may be critical in determining what direction the
country will take.
“Kenya hasn’t seen anything like this
before — this is unheard-of,” said Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who represented
Mr. Kenyatta before the Supreme Court
last year in several election cases.
“When there is a court order you don’t
obey, you look like a rogue state.”
The United States said in a statement
last week that it was “deeply concerned”
about the interference with the media,
and the United Nations Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights
called on the government to “respect
and implement” the court order to end
the blackout.
In Kenya, some are now likening Mr.
Kenyatta to Daniel arap Moi, the authoritarian president who ruled the
country for 24 years, before finally leav-
An electronic store in Nairobi, Kenya. The government has taken television stations off
the air after they reported on an opposition leader’s “swearing-in” ceremony.
ing office in 2002. Mr. Moi outlawed political parties, banned many foreign and
local newspapers and magazines, and
detained and tortured those designated
as political opponents, including writers
and intellectuals.
But shutting down broadcast stations
“never happened, even under Moi,” said
George Kegoro, executive director of
the Kenya Human Rights Commission, a
nongovernmental group that is a leading human-rights authority in the country.
The current tensions have their roots
in last year’s presidential election, when
Raila Odinga, Mr. Kenyatta’s longtime
political rival, challenged his loss to the
president. The Supreme Court ordered a
new election, but Mr. Odinga withdrew
before the second vote, saying the
process remained unfair.
When Mr. Odinga’s supporters boycotted the polls, they handed Mr. Kenyatta an easy victory. Mr. Odinga refused to concede defeat and threatened
to take a parallel “oath” as “the people’s
The government said it would regard
the action as treason, and Western diplomats pleaded with Mr. Odinga to cancel the ceremony. But he pushed forward with the “oath,” and the United
States, in a formal statement, stopped
just short of denouncing the move as unconstitutional.
Mr. Kenyatta summoned media owners last week and warned them not to
cover the Odinga event at Uhuru Park,
in downtown Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
But on Tuesday morning, Kenya’s biggest stations broadcast live from the
park before Mr. Odinga’s arrival.
Government officials then disconnected them.
Mr. Odinga did take the oath that day.
On Wednesday, three journalists at
NTV slept in the newsroom after being
tipped off by police sources that officers
were stationed around the building,
waiting to arrest them. They spent
Raila Odinga sitting before a mock ceremony to swear him in as “the people’s president.” The government’s reaction to the event has created a constitutional crisis.
Thursday night in a safe house, and on
Friday, a court granted them anticipatory bail, effectively protecting them
from arrest. So far, they have not been
charged with any crime.
A court in Nairobi on Thursday ordered the government to restore the stations “with immediate effect.”
But by early Monday morning, it had
still not complied.
The government’s aggressive stance
toward the media and the political opposition may have ended up lending legitimacy to what many observers had dismissed as political theater by Mr.
“The whole world was condemning
Raila Odinga for what he had done,” said
Mr. Abdullahi, the president’s onetime
lawyer. “The government had the moral
high ground. For me, this is the government shooting itself in the foot.”
Though Kenya’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom
of the press, the Kenyatta government,
and the president personally, have long
had a rocky relationship with the media.
Mr. Kenyatta has said on several occasions that newspapers are useful only
for “wrapping meat.”
Last year, Kenyatta aides issued a directive to suspend all government advertising in four major newspapers, and
several journalists have been fired for
refusing to toe the government line in
their coverage.
But the television blackout is universally agreed to be the most dramatic
showdown between the government
and the news media in the history of
Kenya’s young democracy. The shuttered stations reach nearly 70 percent of
Kenyan viewers, according to the latest
figures from GeoPoll, a survey firm.
None but the wealthiest Kenyans can
watch television online, where the stations continue to broadcast.
The government is discussing reopening the stations with the media outlets, conditioning a return to the air on
their agreement to coverage restrictions, according to an official with
knowledge of the confidential conversations. The media outlets deny any negotiations.
If government officials continue to
disregard the order to turn the stations
back on, the court could cite them for
contempt, or even order them jailed,
lawyers say. If those orders are also ignored, that would be a clear sign of a
weakened judiciary — and a teetering
But a bigger concern now is whether
the government takes action against Mr.
Odinga. An arrest, many fear, might be
greeted by widespread public resistance and set off violence — especially
since the crackdown seems to have polarized ordinary Kenyans.
“We are hurting as a country,” said
Job Ogutu, a mechanic who works in
downtown Nairobi. “The gains we made
are no more. The government is supposed to be the custodian of all laws, but
it’s using these same laws to hurt and
oppress its people.”
Many have abandoned hope for dialogue between the two political leaders
and are instead digging in behind the
man they support.
That’s the turn of events that Mr. Mutunga, the former chief justice, finds
most worrying, because each political
heavyweight could muster crowds of
thousands to do his bidding.
“I keep on having nightmares about a
possibility of an ethnic civil war,” he said.
Mr. Mutunga pointed to the widespread conflict that followed the 2007
“That’s our history,” he said. “We have
had these issues before. And now one
side controls the machinery of violence
— they have the army, they have the police. Who is going to restrain them?”
U.S. following Russia into a new arms race
the report issued on Friday, known as
the Nuclear Posture Review, focuses intensely on Russia. It describes Mr. Putin
as forcing America’s hand to rebuild the
nuclear force, as have other documents
produced by Mr. Trump’s National Security Council and his Pentagon.
The report contains a sharp warning
about a new Russian-made autonomous
nuclear torpedo that — while not in violation of the terms of the treaty, known
as New Start — appears designed to
cross the Pacific undetected and release
a deadly cloud of radioactivity that
would leave large parts of the American
West Coast uninhabitable. It also explicitly rejects Mr. Obama’s commitment to
make nuclear weapons a diminishing
part of American defenses.
The limit on warheads — 1,500 deployable weapons — that went into effect on
Monday expires in 2021, and the nuclear
review shows no enthusiasm about its
chances for renewal. The report describes future arms control agreements
as “difficult to envision” in a world “that
is characterized by nuclear-armed
states seeking to change borders and
overturn existing norms,” and in particular by Russian violations of a series of
other arms-limitation treaties.
“Past assumptions that our capability
to produce nuclear weapons would not
be necessary and that we could permit
the required infrastructure to age into
obsolescence have proven to be mistaken,” it argues. “It is now clear that the
United States must have sufficient research, design, development and production capacity to support the sustainment and replacement of its nuclear
The new policy was applauded by establishment Republican defense experts, including some who have shuddered at Mr. Trump’s threats to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, but
have worried that he was insufficiently
focused on Russia’s nuclear modernization. “Obama’s theory was that we will
lead the way in reducing our reliance on
nuclear weapons and everyone else will
do the same,” said Franklin C. Miller, a
nuclear expert who served in the
George W. Bush administration and was
an informal consultant to Pentagon officials who drafted the new policy. “It didn’t work out that way. The Russians
have been fielding systems while we haven’t, and our first new system won’t be
ready until 2026 or 2027.”
“This is a very mainstream nuclear
policy,” Mr. Miller said of the document,
arguing that new low-yield atomic
weapons would deter Mr. Putin and
make nuclear war less likely, rather than
offer new temptations to Mr. Trump.
“Nothing in it deserves the criticism it
has received.”
A senior administration official, who
would discuss the policy only on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Trump had
been briefed on the new nuclear approach, but was leaving the details to
cruise missile that would be fired from
submarines, then become airborne before reaching its target. Mr. Obama had
eliminated an older version.
It also calls for the development of a
low-yield warhead for some of the nation’s submarine ballistic missiles —
part of a broader effort to expand the
credible options “for responding to nuclear or nonnuclear strategic attack.”
But critics of the low-yield weapons say
they blur the line between nuclear and
nonnuclear weapons, making their use
more likely.
Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration who directed oversight of
the nation’s nuclear arsenal, called the
new plan a dangerous folly that would
make nuclear war more likely.
Even Mr. Trump’s harshest critics
concede that America must take
steps as Russia and China have
made their arsenals more lethal.
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Mr. Mattis and to his national security
adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster. The
president, the official said, was primarily concerned about staying ahead in any
nuclear race with Russia, and to a lesser
degree with China.
Even Mr. Trump’s harshest critics
concede that the United States must
take steps as Russia and China have invested heavily in modernizing their
forces, making them more lethal. The
administration’s new strategy describes
the Russian buildup in detail, documenting how Moscow is making “multiple upgrades” to its force of strategic bombers,
as well as long-range missiles based at
sea and on land. Russia is also developing, it adds, “at least two new intercontinental-range systems,” as well as the
autonomous torpedo.
Russia has violated another treaty,
the United States argues, that covers intermediate-range missiles, and is
“building a large, diverse and modern”
set of shorter-range weapons with less
powerful warheads that “are not accountable under the New Start treaty.”
Yet Mr. Trump has not publicly complained about the allegations of treaty
violation or the new weapons.
Though members of the Obama administration were highly critical of the
Trump administration document, there
is little question that Mr. Obama paved
the way for the modernization policy. He
agreed to a $70 billion makeover of
American nuclear laboratories as the
price for Senate approval of the 2010
New Start.
The new document calls for far more
spending — a program that at a minimum will cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years,
without inflation taken into account.
Most of that money would go to new
generations of bombers and new submarines, and a rebuilding of the landbased nuclear missile force that still
dots giant fields across the American
While those systems are the most vulnerable to attack, and the most decrepit
part of the force, they are also among the
most politically popular in Congress, because they provide jobs in rural areas.
In some cases, Mr. Trump’s plan
speeds ahead with nuclear arms that
Mr. Obama had endorsed, such as a new
generation of nuclear cruise missiles.
Other weapons, though, are completely new. For example, the policy
calls for “the rapid development” of a
“We’re simply mirroring the reckless
Russian doctrine,” he said. “We can already deter any strike. We have plenty
of low-yield weapons. The new plan is a
fiction created to justify the making of
new nuclear arms. They’ll just increase
the potential for their use and for miscalculation. The administration’s logic is
One of the most controversial ele-
ments of the new strategy is a section
that declares that the United States
might use nuclear weapons to respond
to a devastating, but nonnuclear, attack
on critical infrastructure — the power
grid or cellphone networks, for example.
All of the new or repurposed warheads would come from the National
Nuclear Security Administration, an
arm of the United States Energy De-
partment that officials say is already
stretched thin.
“We’re pretty much at capacity in
terms of people,” Frank G. Klotz was
quoted as saying after retiring last
month as the agency’s head. “We’re
pretty much at capacity in terms of the
materials that we need to do this work.
And pretty much at capacity in terms of
hours in the day at our facilities.”
Whispers of Haiti become a Mardi Gras shout
An Arcade Fire founder
celebrates the island’s
influence on New Orleans
Régine Chassagne was standing barefoot in her rambling New Orleans home
on a recent weekday, showing members
of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band how
to play the horn parts for her latest musical project.
It was a galloping Carnival anthem
played in the Haitian style and sung
largely in Haitian Creole, a language the
jazz players did not understand. Ms.
Chassagne, a Canadian-born daughter
of Haitian exiles, described their parts
with swooping hand gestures. At one
point, she told them to play “like fireworks — poof!”
The jazzmen, masters of translating
emotion into sound, nodded along, unfazed.
Ms. Chassagne, 41, is a founder of the
rock group Arcade Fire, a French
speaker of mixed racial heritage who
grew up in Montreal playing the piano to
old Louis Armstrong recordings. More
recently, she has become a prominent
advocate for the Haitian people and for a
Haitian culture that has had an outsize,
if not always recognizable, influence on
New Orleans, where she and her husband, Win Butler, have lived for about
three years.
For this year’s Carnival season, the
period of revelry before Lent, Ms. Chassagne and Mr. Butler, the Arcade Fire
frontman, will highlight their adopted
city’s Haitian connections with the kind
of primer its residents readily understand: a raucous procession by the couple’s Haitian-themed Mardi Gras
troupe, the Krewe du Kanaval. Founded
in collaboration with the New Orleans
jazz hub Preservation Hall and rounded
out by local and Haitian musicians, the
krewe plans to parade through the
streets of the French Quarter and Treme
on Tuesday, a week before Mardi Gras,
and put on a free street party.
It is likely to be the loudest love song
to Haiti to emanate from New Orleans in
many decades, at a time when many are
still stinging from a coarse insult from
President Trump and the end of a humanitarian program that allowed more
than 45,000 Haitians to live and work in
the United States.
“I’m the one pushing for it,” Ms. Chassagne said of the band’s focus on Haiti,
“and I’m pushing for it because it’s the
story of my parents, and the culture.
Their culture is what made me who I
Some in New Orleans say the same
could be said for the city.
“There’s this huge connection between the cultures that hasn’t really
been explored,” said Branden Lewis, 30,
a trumpeter with the Preservation Hall
Jazz Band. “My existence is testament
to that fact, and I don’t really know anything about Haiti.”
Mr. Lewis grew up in Southern California, but his family members are Louisiana Creoles who trace their roots to
people of African descent who came to
Louisiana from Haiti in the 19th century.
It is a common New Orleans story. In
1809 and 1810, the population of the city
roughly doubled when more than 10,000
French speakers from the colony of St.
Domingue — whites, slaves and free
people of color — arrived from eastern
Cuba, according to Ned Sublette, the author of the 2008 book “The World That
Made New Orleans.” They had gone to
Cuba from what is now Haiti amid the
tumult of the Haitian revolution, but
Régine Chassagne, center, rehearsing for the Haitian-themed Mardi Gras troupe, Krewe du Kanaval. Ms. Chassagne, a founder of the rock group Arcade Fire, has become a staunch advocate for the island’s people and culture.
were subsequently expelled by the
The new arrivals made a profound
mark on New Orleans, influencing its legal profession, cuisine, journalism, politics and music. In the book, Mr. Sublette
argues that they delayed the Americanization of the city “for perhaps two generations.”
But Americanization eventually won
out, and the French language faded. And
while family names familiar to any
Barthelemy — remain common in New
Orleans, the Haitian influence has become so prevalent, so deeply mixed into
the city’s complex cultural stew, that it
can be difficult to pick out.
“Haiti definitely had an influence on
New Orleans, but it’s hard to see if
you’re not looking,” said Donald Link, a
local chef who has been researching the
city’s culinary ties to the Caribbean
The idea of outsider rock stars making a mark on Mardi Gras has prompted
some grumbling in a city that fiercely
guards its cultural traditions. Mr. Lewis
said some locals had criticized the
Krewe du Kanaval as an act of cultural
appropriation. It would not be the first
time such charges have been made
against Ms. Chassagne or her band,
whose other members are white and
which has come under fire before for
adopting Haitian influences and iconography.
In 2016, they set off an intense online
debate among New Orleanians when
they joined with the Preservation Hall
Jazz Band for a New Orleans-style parade for David Bowie, who died in January of that year.
“Shouldn’t you have at least some tie
to New Orleans to get a second line?”
one commenter said, referring to the
city’s tradition of jazz funeral parades.
Mr. Butler shrugged off the complaints on a recent evening while sipping rum on his back porch with Ben
Jaffe, Preservation Hall’s creative director. Thousands turned out for the Bowie
parade, Mr. Butler said. Thousands
were moved.
“There’s not even one part of me
that’s like, that was a bad idea — like,
‘Oh no, we’ve ruined New Orleans,’ ” he
Ms. Chassagne’s attraction to the Caribbean world feels like an effort to reclaim a heritage that history tried to rob
from her. Her parents fled, separately,
from Haiti in the 1960s, amid the violence imposed by supporters of the
Haitian dictator François Duvalier.
Ms. Chassagne would not visit the island until after the band became famous. She describes a Montreal childhood absorbing wisps of Haiti: her parents chatting in Creole, the way her
mother danced in the kitchen, the
Christmas parties with kompa music on
the stereo.
A fair-skinned member of a family of
many hues, Ms. Chassagne also remembers listening as darker-skinned rela-
Ms. Chassagne, a Canadian-born daughter of Haitian exiles, and her husband, Win
Butler, the Arcade Fire frontman, have lived in New Orleans for about three years.
tives talked about the way white people
would treat them.
Now, she and Mr. Butler stand out in
other ways. New Orleans is still adapting to having the famous indie-rock couple in its midst: One city government official recalled seeing the pair on the
street at Halloween, and mistaking
them for local residents in really convincing Arcade Fire costumes.
In the past few days, Ms. Chassagne
and Mr. Butler have been scrambling
with last-minute details. They have corralled into their Carnival project
Haitian-Americans including Leyla McCalla, an unclassifiable multi-instrumentalist who performs some songs in
Creole, and Charly Pierre, a chef and a
winner of the Food Network’s
“Chopped” contest, who will be providing some of the food.
The couple has also been reaching out
to the Haitian immigrant community. On
Jan. 11, Ms. Chassagne and Mr. Jaffe pro-
moted the festivities on Radio Gonbo
Kreyol, a New Orleans internet radio
station that serves Creole speakers, as
stories began to circulate that President
Trump had crudely disparaged Haiti in a
White House meeting.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that fewer than 500 people in
metropolitan New Orleans claim
Haitian ancestry, but Barthelemy Jolly,
a Haitian native and vice president of
the radio station, believes the Haitian
immigrant community is thousands
strong. Many of them are taxi drivers
and hotel maids, he said, and they have
tended, over the years, to keep a low
But Mr. Trump’s comments prompted
scores of Haitians to march together at
the Women’s March on Jan. 20, which
passed through the city’s central business district and the French Quarter,
bearing Haitian flags. Mr. Jolly said that
he expected many more to come to the
Krewe du Kanaval party.
“The Haitian community, they’re going to be out there,” he said.
So the possibility looms of a party
where second-line rhythms bleed into
the Haitian mizik rasin style, where the
vestiges of Caribbean roots mingle with
the new.
If nothing else, it will probably be a
good time, though Ms. Chassagne hopes
it will be something more. “If we want
things to move forward we need to experience each other’s company,” she said.
“You can’t just retract in your corner.”
Trump’s call to aid only ‘friends’ may not be so easy
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Distinguishing friends from enemies
can be difficult. Sometimes friends disagree, and even enemies will occasionally do things for you that friends will
So President Trump’s insistence in his
State of the Union address last week
that Congress pass laws to ensure that
“American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and
only go to America’s friends” may not be
as easy as it seems.
Threats to cut American foreign aid
have long been a talking point, particularly among Republicans trying to stir
their base by tapping a popular, if inaccurate, perception that the money sent
abroad is vast.
Previous presidents have threatened
to cut foreign aid, too, often to punish
countries for violating human rights.
Mr. Trump appears more motivated by
the notion that the United States gets little in return.
That view, several experts noted,
overlooks the fact that the United States
has always given aid to promote American interests, even if Mr. Trump’s conception of the national interest is narrower than that of many of his predecessors.
Whether or not Congress actually follows through, the president’s warning
left the impression of a superpower
threatening to pick up its marbles and
go home, they said. And they said it may
A protest against American aid cuts in Gaza City. Mr. Trump ordered that $65 million in
aid be withheld from the United Nations refugee agency that serves the Palestinians.
only succeed in stoking resentment
abroad and diminishing American influence in the world.
Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime
minister and foreign minister, said damage has already been done.
“Everyone knows the money serves
U.S. interests, which is also true of European money,” he said. “But this feels
ugly. And this is in the State of the Union,
so it has gone through a policy process,
so it matters more. There’s a difference
Teleprompter version of Trump policy.”
In any case, only about 1 percent of the
United States federal budget goes to foreign aid — and about 40 percent of that
is considered security assistance, rather
than economic or humanitarian aid.
Americans nonetheless remain convinced that the country spends far
more. In a 2015 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average respondent
thought that 26 percent of the federal
budget went to foreign aid. More than
half the respondents thought the United
States was spending too much on foreign aid.
Even if the amounts of American aid
are relatively small, the payoff can be
substantial in leverage for the United
States, in enhancing its image and promoting its values, others noted. That is
Mr. Trump, in his speech, referred to
the many countries that voted disapproval of his decision to eventually
move the American Embassy in Israel
to Jerusalem.
On Thursday, his ambassador to the
United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, told Republican legislators that she was “taking names’’ at the body, adding: “I
can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a
Congress that backs us up. When y’all
play the heavy, it makes it so much easier for me to play the bad cop with a
Beyond retribution, however, Mr.
Trump has also made a theme of “America First,” proclaiming his dislike of programs like democracy promotion and
generic humanitarian aid.
“I’m sure Trump thinks it’s different,
but in practical terms the U.S. has always been giving aid based on U.S. interests and needs,” said Xenia Wickett, a
former United States official who runs
the Americas program at Chatham
House, a foreign affairs research institution.
“What’s changing is the view of American soft power,” she added. “With Jerusalem and the State of the Union, there is
a view that America is no longer doing
the right thing and no longer for the
right reasons. Its self-interest is explicit,
as if it doesn’t care, so those who gave
Americans the benefit of the doubt no
longer do so, and it does damage.”
Marc Otte, the former European Un-
ion special representative for the Middle East peace process and a senior fellow at the Egmont Institute, also known
as the Royal Institute for International
Relations in Belgium, said that cutting
American aid reduces, not enhances,
American influence.
But the “broader question is whether
America is reliable,” Mr. Otte said.
“These are long-term commitments,
and what does this mean for the U.N.
system, for refugees, for Syria and Yemen if U.N. agencies are constrained?”
“Everyone knows the money
serves U.S. interests.”
As a government, America gives less
as a percentage of its gross national income than other countries — only 0.17
percent, well below the 0.3 percent average for developed countries. But because the economy is so large, Americans still provide more foreign aid in total than any other country, and aid cuts
do cause disruptions.
Even before the United Nations vote
in December against the American decision on Jerusalem, Mr. Trump said he
wanted to cut the Obama administration’s spending on foreign aid, about
$42.4 billion, to $27.3 billion, and fold the
United States Agency for International
Development into the State Department.
And he warned that he would withhold “billions” from countries that voted
against him. “Let them vote against us,”
he said. “We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
“But this isn’t like it used to be where
they could vote against you and then
you pay them hundreds of millions of
dollars,” he added. “We’re not going to
be taken advantage of any longer.”
Mr. Trump’s warning appeared aimed
largely at countries in Africa, Asia and
Latin America who are regarded as
more vulnerable to American pressure.
More recently, offended by the sharp
criticism from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, of the Jerusalem
move, Mr. Trump ordered that $65 million in American aid be withheld from
the United Nations refugee agency that
serves the Palestinians.
At least 11 countries, including Russia,
Belgium and Norway, have rushed to
pay their own annual contributions
early and in full, to fill the gap. Pressed
by Norway, the European Union recently held an emergency session to
seek faster contributions to the refugee
Even the Israeli government has quietly criticized the cut to the agency,
which provides much of the schooling
and health care in Gaza and the West
Bank, meaning that Israel, considered
by most of the world as an occupying
power, is not under obligation to do so.
Mr. Trump has also suspended aid to
Pakistan over its ties to the Taliban, and
that is a more popular act, said Ian
Lesser, a former American official who
runs the German Marshall Fund office
in Brussels. “On Egypt and especially
Pakistan,” which receive large amounts
of United States aid, “a lot of the foreign
policy establishment will agree,” he
Pay-gap stories: ‘I almost died inside’
Women of different age,
background and profession
have one thing in common
Early in her career, Jewelle Bickford,
now a partner at Evercore Wealth Management, worked at a global bank in
New York with a male colleague who
was on his best behavior during the first
half of the day, she said, but during and
after lunch, his work ethic devolved.
“When he came back, you would walk
by his office and he would have his head
down,” Ms. Bickford said. “And you
knew he had had quite a few drinks.”
At the end of the year, when bonuses
were announced, a friend of Ms. Bickford’s who worked in human resources
told her how much that male colleague
had received. “It was many multiples of
what I made,” Ms. Bickford said. “He
stayed there. I left.”
It was a Monday in late January, and
Ms. Bickford was at a table with four
other women in a semiprivate room at
Kiki’s, a Greek restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. They
included Gayl Johnson, a director of administration at the city Department of
Sanitation; Alix Keller, the director of
product technology at Hello Alfred, a
home concierge service; Melissa Robbins, a Philadelphia-based political
strategist; and Kimberly Webster, formerly a lawyer at a New York firm.
The women were of different backgrounds, ages and professions, but they
had one thing in common: All said they
had experienced gender-based wage
discrimination over the course of their
Though the pay gap has long been in
the public consciousness — on average,
American women make 80 cents for every dollar men make — three recent incidents have brought renewed scrutiny
to an issue many women in the workplace say they continue to confront on
an almost daily basis.
Early last month, Debra Messing and
Eva Longoria chastised E! on the Golden Globes red carpet for paying Catt
Sadler, the former co-host of E! News,
half of what her male colleague, Jason
Kennedy, made. (Ms. Sadler left the network in December.) The next day, Carrie
Grace resigned as China editor of the
BBC, after salary figures released by the
broadcaster showed a gap between
male and female talent.
And, of course, there is the perhaps
the most famous recent incident: The
From left, Gayl Johnson, Melissa Robbins, Alix Keller, Jewelle Bickford and Kimberly Webster, who gathered in New York to discuss pay disparity.
revelation that Michelle Williams was
paid $80 a day for reshoots on “All the
Money in the World” while her male costar, Mark Wahlberg, was paid $1.5 million in total (he later donated it to charity, following an outcry) — that got
many women in offices around the country swapping tales of when in their own
careers they found out they were being
paid less than their male counterparts
and what they did about it.
“I never really complained about the
pay discrepancy,” Ms. Bickford, 76, said,
pausing between bites of moussaka. “I
was brought up in a culture where it was
considered gauche.”
“I missed that class,” said Ms. Johnson, the city administrator. (Age? “You
can say ‘55 plus.’ ”) Ms. Johnson took a
bite of her lamb chop. “I’ve been doing
this job for over 20 years,” she said. “I
started as a clerk and worked my way
up. I’ve had five promotions. But my
white male counterparts earn $25,000 to
$30,000 more a year than I do.”
Ms. Johnson is one of 1,000 women on
whose behalf a local union filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency,
in 2013, claiming that New York City
paid women and minorities substantially less than their white male col-
leagues. In 2015, the commission ruled
in favor of the women and recommended that the city negotiate a payout.
The suggested starting point was $246
million. Though the city and the union
came to a broad agreement last April,
the details are still being worked out.
To help the union build its case, Ms.
Johnson spent years gathering information. And she was not shy about demanding her rights. Once, she said, she
called a supervisor and asked why she
was making less than a male counterpart. The answer, she said: “He has a
family to support.”
Ms. Johnson is a single mother of
three. Her experience is one example of
what’s called the motherhood penalty, a
term for the economic and career setbacks women experience when they
have children. (Men’s earnings went up
by more than 6 percent when they had
children, if they lived with them, and
women’s decreased 4 percent for each
child they had, a study found. And research has shown that employers rate
fathers as the most desirable employees.)
Ms. Keller, 35, is raising a 9-year-old
son alone. “I’ve made about 40 percent
less than a colleague that’s maybe only a
tiny level above me, someone I didn’t re-
port to,” Ms. Keller said. “I’ve been in a
situation where a male colleague was
making 100 percent more. I almost died
Next to Ms. Keller was Ms. Robbins.
“The last campaign I was working on, I
told my campaign manager, ‘We’re going to lose if we do this your way,’ ” said
Ms. Robbins, who declined to provide
her age. “Sixty-five percent of my salary
was cut. My leadership as a black woman meant nothing to them.”
Ms. Robbins described another job in
sales where she asked for a raise, from
$14 an hour, after bringing in a major client. According to Ms. Robbins, the company’s owner refused. After quitting,
Ms. Robbins said, a man was hired to replace her. His salary? More than twice
as much. “That was the most humiliating experience that I have ever had,” she
Ms. Webster, 36, says she left the law
firm she was working for in 2016 after
she wrote a letter to the partners suggesting that they were acting out unconscious bias. “At least for one case, and it
may have been for multiple cases, my
time was being billed out at a lower rate
than two of the three white male paralegals,” Ms. Webster said. “The very
next business day, I got put on a performance improvement plan,” she added. “They were putting the paperwork
in motion to either justify firing me or
getting me to leave.”
Retaliatory practices toward employees who complain about discrimination
are far from abnormal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that 48.8 percent of the complaints filed by workers in 2017 contained an allegation of retaliation.
Toward the end of the evening, entrees were forgotten and talk turned to
the current moment and the future. “I
believe we’re at a tipping point,” Ms.
Bickford said. “The computer has really
helped us disseminate information, and
I think men are on notice now.” Ms. Bickford and her colleagues in the business
world have formed the Paradigm for
Parity, which provides a five-step plan
for gender equality that they have persuaded dozens of corporate leaders to
Ms. Robbins was recently one of the
speakers at the Women’s March in Philadelphia and is working to help elect
more female leaders. And Ms. Johnson
plans to stick around in city administration and in the union as long as she can.
“We have to look out for the ones who
follow behind us,” Ms. Johnson said.
“There are more battles to be fought.
Everyone deserves a chance.”
Vast patience in Amazon was a virtue for investors
Whole Foods Market.
It may sound like a Pollyanna view of
stock investing, particularly in a market
increasingly dominated by trading algorithms and macro bets on the direction
of interest rates. But in the case of Amazon, it is actually true.
“If Wall Street would allow more companies to reinvest like Amazon, it would
create great benefits for the economy,”
said Henry Blodget, a former stock analyst, who first came to prominence in
1998 by setting a $400 price target for
Amazon shares. (He is now editorial director of the online publication Business
Insider, in which Mr. Bezos was an investor.)
The reality of the economy, however,
is that most other companies are still
playing by Wall Street’s old rules, which
demand consistent profit growth.
And to compete with Amazon and
meet those profit expectations, many retailers and manufacturers are laying off
workers, closing stores and shedding
factories. Last month, Kimberly-Clark,
under pricing pressure from Amazon
and Walmart, said it was laying off more
than 5,000 workers and closing or selling 10 of its factories.
It wasn’t always so easy for Amazon.
During the tech boom of the late 1990s,
Amazon was one of a number of promising tech start-ups that were losing
money. But it showed the potential for
longer term profit, as it moved from selling books into music and toys.
But like the rest of the tech sector, Amazon’s shares tumbled in 2000 and 2001
as investors began to wonder if these
Amazon Gets a Free Pass
companies could ever make money. A
young debt analyst at Lehman Brothers
warned in June 2000 that Amazon might
soon run out of cash, causing investors
to worry about its survival.
Mr. Bezos had squirreled away
enough capital to get through those dark
days. But it took many years for investors who had been burned by the dot-com
crash to give Amazon a second chance.
For long stretches from 2002 to 2006,
Amazon’s stock price languished while
it invested in researching and developing new technologies and businesses.
Mark Mahaney, a tech analyst at RBC
Capital Markets, looked at the company’s slipping profit margins during that
period and warned investors to stay
Mr. Mahaney said he failed to realize
Monthly, adjusted for splits
Early on, Amazon figured out how to tame Wall Street and its fixation
on short-term results. The company has persuaded investors to
evaluate its performance not based on its quarter-to-quarter profits,
but on its long-term potential.
JAN. 31, 2018
JUNE 2017
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Allen Gillespie is one lonely stock analyst.
Of the dozens of Wall Street analysts
covering Amazon, he is the only one
tracked by Bloomberg who recommends that investors sell the company’s
Mr. Gillespie, a partner at FinTrust Investment Advisors, a wealth management firm in Greenville, S.C., questions
whether Amazon deserves such a
stratospheric share price.
“Everybody thinks I am crazy,” said
Mr. Gillespie, who also serves on the
board overseeing South Carolina’s pension fund. “I have had people I’ve never
met email me to ask if I was serious.”
It is a bold call indeed. Since Mr. Gillespie put a sell rating on the company last
July, Amazon’s shares have increased 37
percent, to $1,429. On Friday, one day after Amazon reported the biggest quarterly profit in its history, Amazon’s market value briefly crossed the $700 billion
mark, and its share price increased 3
percent even as the Dow fell 2.5 percent.
For most analysts, the end is not yet in
sight. When the investment firm D. A.
Davidson & Company predicted last
month that Amazon’s shares could rise
to $1,800, Morgan Stanley upped the
ante the next day, forecasting a possible
$2,100 share price.
“It’s an infatuation,” said Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New
York University’s Stern business school,
who recently published a book about
Amazon, Google and other tech giants.
How that infatuation developed is the
story of a company that figured out how
to tame Wall Street. In a business environment that demands, and rewards,
quarterly profits and short-term strategic thinking, Amazon showed extraordinary resolve in focusing on long-term
goals, persuading investors to go along.
Over its first decade in existence, including long stretches where it consistently reported losses, Amazon enjoyed
a luxury afforded few companies: leeway.
“I think it comes down to a consistent
message and consistent strategy, one
that doesn’t deviate when the stock goes
down or goes up,” said Bill Miller, the
chief investment officer at Miller Value
Partners, whose largest holding is Amazon.
In part, Amazon has inured itself to
pressure from Wall Street by ignoring it.
While many chief executives devote significant time to fielding questions from
investors, Amazon’s founder and chief
executive, Jeff Bezos, is famously stingy
about the time he spends with major
stockholders. He hasn’t appeared on an
Amazon earnings calls in years.
In a 2014 interview with Business Insider, Mr. Bezos said he spent a measly
six hours a year on investor relations
and then only with long-term shareholders, who have been willing to weather
the company’s ups and downs. Mr.
Miller is one of them.
Mr. Bezos has constantly reminded
the market of his philosophy. Each year
in the company’s annual letter to shareholders, Amazon attaches a copy of a letter from 1997, its very first as a publicly
traded company.
“We will continue to make investment
decisions in light of long-term market
Allen Gillespie of FinTrust Investment
Advisors is one of the few wondering
whether Amazon merits its share price.
leadership considerations rather than
short-term profitability considerations
or short-term Wall Street reactions,” Mr.
Bezos wrote in a section of the letter titled, “It’s All About the Long Term.”
Mr. Bezos has been true to his word.
Amazon has reported an annual profit in
only 13 of the 21 years that it has operated as a publicly traded company, according to FactSet, a financial data firm.
An Amazon spokesman declined to
And its profit margins, already low by
some measures, have fluctuated from
year to year — hardly moving in the
straight upward line that Wall Street
usually likes to see.
Yet investors have rewarded Amazon
for plowing its profits back into growing
its businesses, whether in online retail,
cloud computing or, most recently, in
grocery stores, with the acquisition of
Amazon announces it is
buying Whole Foods.
APRIL 2015
Amazon discloses cloud
computing profits for
the first time.
JUNE 2000
Bond analyst issues report
warning that Amazon could
run out of cash in a year.
Amazon announces a
quarterly profit for the
first time ever.
Amazon releases
the Kindle e-reader.
$180 billion
+ $3 billion
$12 billion
+ 2
+ 1
+ 1
No data
before ’01
Sources: Reuters;
+ 2
“that all that spending on R.&D. was a
bullish sign for the future.” He has had a
buy rating on the company for more
than a decade.
Those long-term investments, which
Amazon didn’t detail at the time, eventually gave rise to some of the company’s
most profitable businesses, like its
cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web
The success of the cloud-computing
business proved a tipping point. If investors allowed Amazon to spend time
and money investing, patience would
pay off.
Investors are now awaiting the payoff
from Amazon’s foray into groceries with
its $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods
last spring. How it plans to integrate
hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores
with its core e-commerce business is far
from clear.
By now, Wall Street has been well
trained to believe that Amazon has a
strategy for Whole Foods and that it will
take time to carry it out.
“What the market finally figured out
is Amazon is extremely good at investing those dollars,” said Mr. Miller, of
Miller Value Partners.
Ultimately, much of the investor confidence in Amazon reflects a belief in its
future opportunity — what investors
frequently call a company’s “addressable market.”
For Amazon, the addressable market
in retail is roughly $5 trillion in the
United States and many times that globally, Mr. Miller said. And that’s not even
including the traditional informationtechnology market that Amazon Web
Services is attacking. “I asked Jeff what
the addressable market is for A.W.S.,”
Mr. Miller said. “He just looked at me
and said, ‘Trillions and trillions.’ ”
Online spending represents less than
10 percent of total retail spending, and
Amazon captures almost half of every
dollar spent in online shopping by
Even Mr. Gillespie, the skeptic, acknowledges that Amazon is “operating
extremely well.” But he questions
whether years of low interest rates have
helped inflate Amazon’s value because
investors are so starved for return, they
are willing to overlook some of the risks.
Those risks, he said, include regulators deciding the company is growing
too large or not paying its fair share in
“People tend to assume away these
things,” he said.
Stephen Grocer contributed reporting.
How sales
can stumble
over culture
and biology
Colossal Media painters — who call themselves “wall dogs” — working on a mural in Manhattan. The advertisement, showing the rapper Kendrick Lamar, was for Spotify, which could have paid half as much for a vinyl billboard.
Hand-painted ads in a digital age
Jason Coatney, above, one of Colossal’s painters, working on the Spotify mural. Paul Lindahl, below, a Colossal Media founder, at the
company warehouse. “It’s more than just this flashing ad, forcing information down your face,” Mr. Lindahl said of hand-painted ads.
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Some punk kids have no dreams at all.
Paul Lindahl was a skater and a drummer in a band when he found himself
dreaming of painting advertisements.
“There was a paint production company
in Portland, Oregon,” he said. “I was like,
oh my God, that’s amazing. Big-format
murals — I want to do that.”
Before the advent of low-cost vinyl
plotters, large-format hand-painted murals were the norm for advertisements
in cities across America. Mural painting
was a trade passed on through a system
of informal apprenticeship, much like
plumbing or tattooing. By the mid-1990s,
when Mr. Lindahl started dreaming, opportunities for new painters were few
and far between. Hand-painted ads had
become a niche product, an expensive
last resort in landmark districts with
strict signage laws.
Mr. Lindahl got a job and worked his
way up at a local paint production company, sometimes making stencils in 30hour shifts. “I eventually got canned
from there because I was out doing graffiti, got arrested, couldn’t come to work
or whatever,” he said. He moved around,
repeating this pattern at the last remaining hand-painting companies in San
Francisco and Los Angeles. “I thought,
let me just try out all these different cities, chase the tail of the dragon of this
thing that’s dying,” he said.
Like many others who are chronically
unemployable, Mr. Lindahl eventually
went into business for himself. He
founded a company, Colossal Media, in
2004, from a one-car garage in Brooklyn.
His co-founders were his friends Adrian
Moeller and Patrick Elasik, who had
started the graffiti magazine Mass Appeal. (Mr. Elasik died in 2005.) The slogan was “Always Handpaint.” By then,
even vinyl plotters had been replaced by
affordable digital printing.
“As we got into it, we realized nobody
wanted it. It was archaic. It was untrustworthy,” Mr. Lindahl said. “Up until that
point, the quality had just nose-dived because people were trying to get to the
Some of Colossal’s earliest murals
were for video games and alcoholic
drinks — products that profit from a
grittier aesthetic. It took a few years for
Colossal’s hand-painting to earn the
trust of more conservative brands. Mr.
Lindahl attributes his eventual success
to meticulous quality but also coincidence. The nascent hipster culture
of the mid-2000s favored D.I.Y. and
“homegrown stuff.” Its consumers associated obsolescence with authenticity,
reviving bygone trades like butchering,
woodworking and, yes, hand-painting.
On newly influential social media
platforms, corporate brands increasingly sought to associate their products
with meaningful experiences. Colossal’s
murals fostered on-the-street engagement, which often spilled over to Instagram. Today, the brand is no longer tied
to a warehouse aesthetic. Recent clients
include Adidas, Coca-Cola and the
Gagosian Gallery.
“We’re doing work with Gucci, Yves
Saint Laurent — fashion brands that I
can’t even say because they’re French
companies or whatever,” Mr. Lindahl
said. “They get the value. It’s more than
just this flashing ad, forcing information
down your face. People that like what we
do stop and choose to enjoy it.”
Colossal may be the world’s largest
hand-painting-only advertisement company, leasing 120 walls across America.
In New York City, 20 of those are in Manhattan, and 68 are in Brooklyn. Many of
these walls are at sidewalk level. Others,
like the wall at 305 Canal Street in the
Soho neighborhood of Manhattan, are
several stories above the street.
On a recent Tuesday, around dawn,
Colossal’s team of “wall dogs” rode out
to SoHo to prep the Canal Street space
for a Spotify mural that would feature an
image of the rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Six stories up, on a 28-inch-wide plank,
they transferred the outline of his 12-foot
face, using handmade stencils and bags
of charcoal dust. The mural would take
five days to complete and require 13
shades of paint. It cost Spotify twice as
much as a vinyl billboard.
“Hanging off the side of a building and
painting somebody’s advertisements
just doesn’t add up,” said Jason Coatney,
one of Colossal’s 27 wall dogs. “It’s more
expensive. It’s more dangerous. It’s
Like other novelties of the post-hip-
ster age, the source of the value is not
just the finished work, but also the tedious and rarefied conditions of its production. The spectacle of painters hanging from a wall is as much Colossal’s
product as the murals themselves. Colossal offers time-lapse footage and photos for clients to share on social channels.
While studio painters can step back
and check their work, wall dogs paint
close up at a large scale. A few wrong
strokes can quickly send a mural off
“Kendrick Lamar’s face isn’t like anybody else’s face, but it’s similar,” said Mr.
Coatney, painting high above Canal
Street. “You start with the big similarities, and then you make it him.”
Mr. Coatney helps run Colossal’s
training program, a formalized version
of the apprenticeships that preserved
hand-painting knowledge in the past.
His apprentice on the Spotify mural was
Will Krieg, 24, whose father also works
as a sign painter, in Colorado.
“Half our crew has an art history
background,” Mr. Coatney said. “You
know, they went to art school and have a
degree. And then the other half has no
traditional art experience, and they
came in really raw with a lot of drive.”
Mr. Lindahl describes his staff as
mostly “punk kids” and “misfits.” They
range in age from 21 to 67 and are almost
exclusively male. This gender imbalance reflects a broader imbalance in
physical, hands-on trades in general.
“If you’ve got the heart, if you’ve got
the persistence, if you’ve got the desire
— and you’ve got some life experience
that supports that — we can make a wall
dog out of you,” Mr. Lindahl said.
Mr. Lindahl recognizes the sellout-ish
nature of a bunch of punks painting advertisements, but he’s proud to offer a
conventional path for artists who may
otherwise contend with instability. He
says the average wall dog makes
$80,000 per year, with health insurance
and a retirement savings plan.
To him, these are better terms than
working in the studio of a contemporary
artist like Jeff Koons. “They’ll get 60 artists because there’s a show coming up.
Then the show passes and everybody’s
fired,” he said. “Here, if you come in the
door, we’re not a steppingstone. The
hope is that you spend your entire career with us.”
Five days later, from down on the
street, the face of Kendrick Lamar
looked so precise that nobody would
have guessed it was painted by hand.
Then one person stopped to take a
photo, and others began to look skyward
and do the same. The mural was scheduled to stay up for a month. By the end of
January, it was painted over with white.
“Some of the really old walls, if you
took a big chip off, there would be, like, a
quarter-inch of years and years of corporations trying to sell you stuff,” Mr.
Coatney said.
This cycle may seem bleak, but for Mr.
Coatney, ephemerality is another day at
“I don’t feel sad, because when I see
that happening I know that it’s putting
food on a bunch of people’s tables,” he
said. “If they’re just sitting there dormant, it means we’re not doing something right. They’re not meant to last
forever. It’s just paint.”
have prospered in part by selling aspirational products to Chinese consumers
who want to show the world that they
have made it. That task is tougher for
products that nobody sees.
“It has to be something visible or
something you can smell,” said Ye Tan,
an independent economist in Shanghai.
“Deodorant fails partly because it is invisible.”
The products have their Chinese adherents. Cai Qianyi, a 38-year-old media
professional in Beijing, started using deodorant in 2006, when he was studying
in France. He doesn’t think he has body
odor but sees a problem with sweat
“Sweat leaving wet spots on your Tshirt in the summer is extremely ugly,
especially around the armpits, which
could be really socially embarrassing,”
Mr. Cai said.
But most of his family and friends
have no idea what deodorant is, he said.
Once, a cousin mistook his deodorant
stick for perfume and asked him why it
was solid.
When global deodorant makers began
their foray into China, they highlighted
the social embarrassment caused by
Their central message was a proven
winner in the West: Sweating will get
you shunned socially and ruin your
chances for romance.
That pitch fell on deaf ears in China,
said Lucia Liu, an assistant manager for
skin care at Unilever who was involved
in Rexona’s marketing from 2011 to 2016.
“The traditional thinking here is that
sweating is good because it helps people
detox,” Ms. Liu said. “There is a marketing barrier that is really hard to overcome.”
Chinese health websites have long
promoted the benefits of sweating, including immunity raising, memory enhancement and skin rejuvenation. To
many Chinese, perspiration is a natural
part of metabolism that should not be
There’s another reason few Chinese
consumers buy deodorant: biology.
Scientists in recent years have shown
that many East Asians, a group that includes China’s ethnic Han majority, have
a gene that lowers the likelihood of a
strong “human axillary odor” — scientist-speak for body stink.
That lowers the likelihood that they
will use deodorant to begin with, accord-
Companies have prospered in
part by selling aspirational
products to Chinese consumers
who want to show the world that
they have made it.
ing to a 2013 study by researchers at the
University of Bristol and Brunel University in Britain, after a survey of nearly
6,500 women of various backgrounds.
“It is likely that deodorant usage is
not widely adopted because there is, for
much of the East Asia population, no
need for it,” the researchers said. (For
those curious about such matters, that
same genetic difference also leads to
drier earwax.)
Unilever was not deterred. It deployed traditional marketing tools, including signing top celebrities to appear
in TV ads, in-store product sampling
and sweat tests, and concert sponsorships.
Many of its efforts seem tone deaf in
A series of Rexona print ads portrayed a person’s armpits as potential
threats to others. In one, a gunslinger —
his armpit hovering over the scene in
the foreground — appears to take down
his opponent without touching his revolver. In a similar ad, a boxer appears
to knock out his opponent with little
more than his aroma.
Ng Tian It, a Singaporean creative director who oversaw the ad campaign,
was proud of the look. But he said the
ads appeared to be out of touch with
many Chinese consumers unfamiliar
with Old West shootouts, professional
boxing and the prospect of offensive underarm smells.
“The series of advertisements we designed relied on the Western sense of
humor,” he said. “Not many Chinese
would understand this.”
Deodorant sales in the United States
reached $4.5 billion in 2016, according to
Euromonitor, a market research firm.
China’s total: $110 million. Deodorant
also does not sell well in other East
Asian markets: Japan’s sales that year
were about one-tenth those of the
United States.
Companies hoping to sell deodorant
in China have had to appeal to other
senses. Nivea, a brand owned by the
Germany company Beiersdorf, has tried
to lure female Chinese consumers by introducing deodorants with whitening
functions, to cater to a market where fair
skin often confers social status.
Simon Cao, Nivea’s China marketing
director, said that the deodorant was
popular but that “the room for growth is
very limited.”
“We will not spend too much energy
on deodorant, because the investment is
not proportional to the return,” Mr. Cao
Latin America’s female leadership void
Quota laws
for female
have not fully
about who
should lead
a country.
Jennifer M. Piscopo
SANTIAGO, CHILE After President Mi-
chelle Bachelet of Chile leaves office in
March, Latin America will have no
female presidents.
There was a time in 2014 when the
region had four: Laura Chinchilla in
Costa Rica, Cristina Fernández de
Kirchner in Argentina, Dilma Rousseff
in Brazil and Ms. Bachelet. Now, Latin
America is left with few prospects for
female presidents in the near future.
More than most regions, Latin
America has used affirmative-action
laws to close the gender gap in political leadership. But to hold these
gains, and to help ensure that women
continue to rise to top political positions, Latin America needs to understand the limits of legal remedies for
pulling women up.
Quota laws for female legislative
candidates have created opportunities
for women to advance in politics, but
they have not fully transformed traditional attitudes
about who should
Parties with
fewer seats to lead a country.
Women entered
win appear
national congresses
less likely to
in significant numtake chances
bers thanks to genon women.
der quotas. Argentina passed the
world’s first quota
law for female candidates for Congress
in 1991, requiring political parties to
nominate women for at least 30 percent of the open positions. It was recently updated so that half of parties’
congressional slates must be women.
Today, all but two Latin American
countries have a quota or parity law
for legislative candidates.
Women hold more than 35 percent of
legislative seats in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua. Bolivia has
a majority-female legislature. In the
United States, by comparison, women
make up just 19 percent of the House of
Representatives and 22 percent of the
Many of these quota laws do more
than increase the number of female
candidates. Many require political
parties to place women in favorable
ballot positions and to allocate portions of their budget to training female
But while affirmative-action laws
help women get ahead, they do not
save them from political crises.
Ms. Bachelet, Mrs. Kirchner, Ms.
Rousseff and Ms. Chinchilla led popular incumbent parties when they were
elected president, in a region already
accustomed to female leaders. The
three presidents on the left — Ms.
Bachelet, Mrs. Kirchner and Ms.
Rousseff — also benefited from the
“pink tide,” a wave of leftist leadership
that swept Latin America from 1998 to
In this period, the region was
buoyed by a commodities boom. Flush
with resources, countries expanded
social protections for workers, the
poor, indigenous peoples, L.G.B.T.
people and women.
Then the party ended: Economies
declined and security concerns increased. Citizens became disillusioned,
and the traditional parties and their
coalitions broke apart. Voters decided
to throw most incumbents out, men
and women alike.
But the women fell harder than the
men, making clear that there is still a
double standard for male and female
Ms. Chinchilla’s presidency was
widely seen as a failure, even though
the economy grew 4 percent to 5 percent during her term. Ms. Bachelet’s
favorability nose-dived following allegations that her son and daughter-inlaw profited illicitly from real estate,
while President-elect Sebastián Piñera
apparently suffered no ill effects from
allegations that he faked invoices to
illegally finance a campaign.
In 2016, Congress impeached Ms.
Rousseff and removed her from her
office for accounting practices that
were long held as normal in Brazil, and
with no evidence of her personal en-
richment. Upon taking over from Ms.
Rousseff, President Michel Temer
chose only white men for his new
cabinet, in a country where nonwhites
are the majority. Mr. Temer recently
faced accusations of corruption more
serious than those against Ms. Rousseff, including allegations that he ordered his subordinates to pay hush
money. He survived his impeachment
Neither the left nor the right in Latin
America appears to want female candidates these days. The left, favored to
win after Ms. Chinchilla’s departure in
Costa Rica, passed over the longtime
political leader Epsy Campbell Barr. A
prominent politician of African descent, Ms. Campbell Barr lost her bid
for the party’s nomination for president despite having approval ratings
higher than those of her male competitors.
And on the right, the Mexican politician and former first lady Margarita
Zavala had strong poll numbers but no
path to winning the nomination. She
recently started an independent campaign for the presidency — in a video
criticizing the party for closing ranks
against her.
These are not isolated events. My
research shows that political parties
from the left and right nominate fewer
women when voters think the economy is doing poorly. Political parties
on both sides also nominate fewer
women when there is increased competition. In Latin America, disillusionment has fueled the growth of new
parties. More choices for voters means
fewer seats for each party — and
parties with fewer seats to win appear
less likely to take chances on women.
More women in office also does not
mean less discrimination or harassment. The glass ceiling remains.
While Latin America outpaces the
global average for women in senior
management roles, women hold only 5
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#MeToo and law’s limitations
laws couldn’t
work until
Catharine A. MacKinnon
The #MeToo movement is accomplishing what sexual harassment law to
date has not.
This mass mobilization against
sexual abuse, through an unprecedented wave of speaking out in conventional and social media, is eroding the
two biggest barriers to ending sexual
harassment in law and in life: the
disbelief and trivializing dehumanization of its victims.
Sexual harassment law — the first
law to conceive sexual violation in
inequality terms — created the preconditions for this moment. Yet denial by
abusers and devaluing of accusers
could still be reasonably counted on by
perpetrators to shield their actions.
Many survivors realistically judged
reporting pointless. Complaints were
routinely passed off with some version
of “she wasn’t credible” or “she wanted
it.” I kept track of this in cases of campus sexual abuse over decades; it
typically took three to four women
testifying that they had been violated
by the same man in the same way to
even begin to make a dent in his denial. That made a woman, for credibility
purposes, one-fourth of a person.
Even when she was believed, noth-
ing he did to her mattered as much as
what would be done to him if his actions against her were taken seriously.
His value outweighed her sexualized
worthlessness. His career, reputation,
mental and emotional serenity and
assets counted. Hers didn’t. In some
ways, it was even worse to be believed
and not have what he did matter. It
meant she didn’t matter.
These dynamics of inequality have
preserved the system in which the
more power a man has, the more
sexual access he can get away with
compelling. It is widely thought that
when something is legally prohibited,
it more or less stops. This may be true
for exceptional acts, but it is not true
for pervasive practices like sexual
harassment, including rape, that are
built into structural social hierarchies.
Equal pay has been the law for decades and still does not exist. Racial
discrimination is nominally illegal in
many forms but is still widely practiced against people of color. If the
same cultural inequalities are permitted to operate in law as in the behavior
the law prohibits, equalizing attempts
— such as sexual harassment law —
will be systemically resisted.
This logjam, which has long paralyzed effective legal recourse for sexual harassment, is finally being broken.
Structural misogyny, along with sexualized racism and class inequalities, is
Democratic House members wore black last week in solidarity against sexual assault.
being publicly and pervasively challenged by women’s voices. The difference is, power is paying attention.
Powerful individuals and entities are
taking sexual abuse seriously for once
and acting against it as never before.
No longer liars, no longer worthless,
today’s survivors are initiating consequences none of them could have
gotten through any lawsuit — in part
because the laws do not permit relief
against individual perpetrators, but
more because they are being believed
and valued as the law seldom has.
Women have been saying these things
forever. It is the response to them that
has changed.
Revulsion against harassing behav-
ior — in this case, men with power
refusing to be associated with it —
could change workplaces and schools.
It could restrain repeat predators as
well as the occasional and casual exploiters that the law so far has not.
Shunning perpetrators as sex bigots
who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of inequality could transform
society. It could change rape culture.
Sexual harassment law can grow
with #MeToo. Taking #MeToo’s changing norms into the law could — and
predictably will — transform the law
as well. Some practical steps could
help capture this moment. Institutional
or statutory changes could include
prohibitions or limits on various forms
of secrecy and nontransparency that
hide the extent of sexual abuse and
enforce survivor isolation, such as
forced arbitration, silencing nondisclosure agreements even in cases of
physical attacks and multiple perpetration, and confidential settlements. A
realistic statute of limitations for all
forms of discrimination, including
sexual harassment, is essential. Being
able to sue individual perpetrators and
their enablers, jointly with institutions,
could shift perceived incentives for
this behavior. The only legal change
that matches the scale of this moment
is an Equal Rights Amendment, expanding the congressional power to
legislate against sexual abuse and
judicial interpretations of existing law,
guaranteeing equality under the Constitution for all.
But it is #MeToo, this uprising of the
formerly disregarded, that has made
untenable the assumption that the one
who reports sexual abuse is a lying
slut, and that is changing everything
already. Sexual harassment law prepared the ground, but it is today’s
movement that is shifting gender
hierarchy’s tectonic plates.
the University of Michigan and Harvard. Her most recent book, on 40 years
of activism, is “Butterfly Politics” (Harvard, 2017).
10 | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018
Hanging up their head scarves
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
Nahid Siamdoust
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
MARK THOMPSON, Chief Executive Officer
JOSEPH KAHN, Managing Editor
STEPHEN DUNBAR-JOHNSON, President, International
TOM BODKIN, Creative Director
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DEMARTA, Senior V.P., Global Advertising
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
CHARLOTTE GORDON, V.P., International Consumer Marketing
JAMES BENNET, Editorial Page Editor
HELEN KONSTANTOPOULOS, V.P., International Circulation
JAMES DAO, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
HELENA PHUA, Executive V.P., Asia-Pacific
KATHLEEN KINGSBURY, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
SUZANNE YVERNÈS, International Chief Financial Officer
President Trump has correctly identified two big challenges that Americans want him to tackle this year —
the opioid epidemic and the country’s dilapidated and
overstretched infrastructure.
Mr. Trump promised to address these vexing issues
last year, too, but made almost no progress. Perhaps
this year he will take them seriously because he and
his party want to impress voters ahead of the November elections. If so, there are many good ideas the
White House and Congress ought to consider.
The Opioid Crisis
This is a daunting epidemic that has steadily gotten
worse. Drug overdose deaths nearly doubled in 10
years, to more than 64,000 in 2016, a large majority of
them from heroin and other opioids.
Mr. Trump doesn’t have to look far to figure out
what has to be done. His Commission on Combating
Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released a detailed report in November on this very issue. One
recommendation was for the government to increase
access to substance abuse treatment. The administration could do so by demanding that health insurance
companies cover such care. Federal law already requires insurers to cover addiction treatment and other
mental health services, but many do not include those
services in their networks of doctors and hospitals,
according to a recent report. The commission said the
administration and Congress should give the Department of Labor the authority to penalize insurance
companies that do not adequately cover addiction
treatment. The president should also ask Congress to
dedicate more money for treatment. But that’s unlikely
since the White House is reportedly considering slashing the budget of the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, which coordinates the federal government’s
activities in this area.
The commission also called on the government and
insurers to encourage greater use of opioid alternatives like physical therapy and nonaddictive
painkillers. Some doctors and hospitals have been
moving in this direction. But experts say many health
care providers are still prescribing opioids when they
ought to be using alternative treatments. That’s because government programs and private insurers do
not cover these alternative services and drugs. Other
areas the government ought to focus on include cracking down on drug trafficking and the delivery of potent
opioids, like fentanyl, through the postal system.
But will Mr. Trump pursue any of these ideas? His
record gives little cause for optimism. One indication
of how seriously the White House has taken this issue
was its appointment last month of a 24-year-old campaign volunteer with no experience in drug policy as
the deputy chief of staff of the drug policy office. Outrage followed, and his tenure was cut mercifully short.
Fixing Infrastructure
Most Americans agree that the United States needs
to substantially increase investments in transportation, energy, water and other public works. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the country needs to increase infrastructure spending by $2
trillion to be globally competitive. In his State of the
Union speech, Mr. Trump said he wanted to increase
investment by $1.5 trillion. But leaked copies of the
administration’s infrastructure proposal show that it
will include only $200 billion in federal spending. And
White House officials have said that this money could
come from cutting existing infrastructure spending on
things like public transit and Amtrak.
Some Republican lawmakers are already arguing
that the government cannot afford a big infrastructure
package. It’s strange to hear them say that after they
just passed a huge tax cut that will raise the federal
deficit by $1.5 trillion over a decade. Congress could
easily come up with money for transportation. Here
are two suggestions: Raise the federal gas tax, which
lawmakers last increased in 1993. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports raising this tax. Or Congress could enact a carbon tax, which would have the
added benefit of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Administration officials appear to think they can fix
America’s infrastructure by giving developers tax
incentives, moving some money around and eliminating environmental regulations, a favorite target for Mr.
Trump and his cronies. These changes, they argue,
will be enough to encourage the private sector and
state and local governments to do what needs to be
done. This is not credible because many states and
cities will find it impossible to raise revenue after the
Republican tax cuts reduce the deductibility of state
and local taxes on federal tax returns. As for the private sector, it’s only likely to invest in projects that
come with a lucrative stream of revenue, like toll
roads, which have not proved as successful as their
promoters had hoped.
Mr. Trump has an opportunity to save and improve
the lives of millions of people if he puts in place plans
to end the opioid epidemic and upgrade the country’s
infrastructure. He needs to start taking action, instead
of talking about it.
how to dress — something that, over the
past century, various Iranian leaders
have tried to deny.
The founder of the Pahlavi dynasty,
Reza Shah, banned the hijab, in a gesture of modernization, in 1936, which
effectively put some
women under house
For years,
arrest for years since
they could not bear to
women have
be uncovered in
made protests public. The leader of
the Islamic Republic,
Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini, made the
hijab compulsory in
secondary to
their fight.
Mass protests by
Now, young
women were unsucwomen are
cessful in overturnmaking it
ing the edict. Procentral.
hijab campaigners
invented the slogan
“Ya rusari ya tusari,”
which means “Either a cover on the
head or a beating,” and supervisory
“committees” — often composed of
women in full chadors — roamed the
streets and punished women they
deemed poorly covered. Those who
opposed the strict measure called these
enforcer women “Fati commando,” a
A young Iranian woman waves a white headscarf in protest of her country’s compulsory hijab rule.
derogatory term that combines Islam —
in the nickname Fati for Fatemeh, the
prophet’s daughter — and vigilantism.
While the requirements have remained firmly in place, Iranian women
have been pushing the boundaries of
acceptable hijab for years. Coats have
gotten shorter and more fitted and some
head scarves are as small as bandannas. This has not gone without notice or
punishment: Hijab-related arrests are
common and numerous. In 2014, Iranian
police announced that “bad hijab” had
led to 3.6 million cases of police intervention.
But for years, many women’s rights
activists have written off the hijab as
secondary to other matters such as
political or gender equality rights. In
2006, the One Million Signatures for the
Repeal of Discriminatory Laws campaign, one of the most concerted efforts
undertaken by Iranian feminists to gain
greater rights for women, barely mentions the hijab. Iranian feminists have
also been determined to distance themselves from the Western obsession with
the hijab, almost overcompensating by
minimizing its significance. Western
feminists who have visited Iran and
willingly worn the hijab have also
played a hand in normalizing it.
But fighting discriminatory policies
has not resulted in any real change, as
the crushed One Million Signatures
campaign proved. So now Ms. Alinejad
and a younger generation of Iranian
women are turning back the focus on
the most visible symbol of discrimination, which, they argue, is also the most
fundamental. “We are not fighting
against a piece of cloth,” Ms. Alinejad
told me. “We are fighting for our dignity.
If you can’t choose what to put on your
head, they won’t let you be in charge of
what is in your head, either.” In contrast,
Islamic Republic officials argue that the
hijab bestows dignity on women.
The government has had a mixed
response to the protests. On the day that
Vida Movahed climbed on the utility box
to protest the hijab, Tehran’s police chief
announced that going forward, women
would no longer be detained for bad
hijab, but would be “educated.” In early
January, in response to recent weeks of
unrest throughout the country, President Hassan Rouhani went so far as to
say, “One cannot force one’s lifestyle on
the future generations.” In the past
week, faced with a growing wave of civil
disobedience, Iran’s general prosecutor
called the actions of the women “childish” and the Tehran police said that
those who were arrested were “deceived by the ‘no-hijab’ campaign.”
But these young women appear
undeterred. Their generation is empowered by a new media ecosystem, one
that not only unites protesters but also
helps to spread potent images of defiance. Ms. Alinejad believes that the
movement has already, in a sense,
succeeded. “Women are showing that
they are no longer afraid,” she said. “We
used to fear the government, now it’s
the government that fears women.”
NAHID SIAMDOUST is a postdoctoral associate of Iranian studies at Yale University and the author of “Soundtrack of
the Revolution: The Politics of Music in
Driven down the road to war
Lawrence Wilkerson
Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, took to
the podium at the United Nations to sell
pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief
of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint
a clear picture that war was the only
choice, that when “we confront a regime
that harbors ambitions for regional
domination, hides weapons of mass
destruction and provides haven and
active support for terrorists, we are not
confronting the past, we are confronting
the present. And unless we act, we are
confronting an even more frightening
Following Mr. Powell’s presentation
on that cold day, I considered what we
had done. At the moment, I thought all
our work was for naught — and despite
his efforts we did not gain substantial
international buy-in. But polls later that
day and week demonstrated he did
convince many Americans. I knew that
was why he was chosen to make the
presentation in the first place: his
standing with the American people was
more solid than any other member of
the Bush administration.
President Bush would have ordered
the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But
the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by
the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.
That effort led to a war of choice with
Iraq — one that resulted in catastrophic
losses for the region and the United
States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East.
This should not be forgotten today for
a clear reason: The Trump administration is using much the same playbook to
create a false choice that war is the only
way to address the challenges
presented by Iran.
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If the president
wants to deal
with the opioid
crisis and
fix America’s
there are many
good ideas
for him to
On Dec. 27, Vida Movahed stood bareheaded on a utility box on one of
Tehran’s busiest thoroughfares, waving
her white head scarf on a stick. Within
days, images of the 31-year-old, who was
detained and then released a few weeks
later, had become an iconic symbol.
In the weeks since Ms. Movahed’s
peaceful protest of the compulsory
hijab, long one of the most visible symbols of the Islamic Republic, dozens of
women, and even some men, throughout Iran have followed her lead. So far, at
least 29 women in cities throughout the
country have been arrested.
These bold acts of defiance against
the hijab are unprecedented in the
nearly 40-year history of the Islamic
Republic, but a movement that may
have helped inspire them has been
going on for years. It began on the social
media account of a Brooklyn-based
Iranian journalist named Masih Alinejad. In 2014, Ms. Alinejad started a Facebook page called “My Stealthy Freedom,” urging women to post images of
themselves without the hijab in public
places. Last year, she launched “White
Wednesdays,” inviting women to wear
white scarves on Wednesdays in protest
of the compulsory hijab law. (Ms. Movahed carried out her protest on a
Wednesday and held a white scarf,
though her actual allegiance to Ms.
Alinejad’s campaign is unknown).
Ms. Alinejad, who worked as a journalist in Iran before emigrating to England in 2009, says her campaign came
about by chance. She posted a photo of
herself driving her car in Iran without
hijab and invited others to share “hidden photos” of themselves on her Facebook page. The overwhelming response
— the page now has more than a million
followers — prompted her to focus more
on the issue. “I was a political reporter,
but the women in Iran forced me to care
about the issue of personal freedoms,”
she told me.
For Ms. Alinejad and the protesters,
the struggle against the compulsory
hijab is about regaining a woman’s
control over her own body, not a matter
of questioning the validity of the hijab
itself. Now that bareheaded women are
joined in these acts by women who
proudly wear the full-body chador, it is
clear that the movement on the ground
is also about a woman’s right to choose
Just over a month ago, the United
States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that
Iran was not complying with Security
Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen. Just like
Mr. Powell, Ms. Haley showed satellite
images and other physical evidence
only available to the United States
intelligence community to prove her
case. But the evidence fell significantly
It’s astonishing how similar these
moments are to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass
destruction. And how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those
of Bush-Cheney. As I watched Ms. Haley
at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I
wanted to play the video of Mr. Powell
on the wall behind her, so that Americans could recognize instantly how they
were being driven down the same path
as in 2003 — ultimately to war. Only this
war with Iran — a country of almost 80
million people, whose vast strategic
depth and difficult terrain makes it a far
greater challenge than Iraq — would be
10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in
terms of casualties and costs.
If we want a slightly more official
statement of the Trump administration’s plans for Iran, we need only look
at the recently-released National Security Strategy, which says: “The longer
we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, the worse such
threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have.” The Bush-Cheney team could not have said it better
as it contemplated invading Iraq.
The strategy positions Iran as one of
the greatest threats America faces,
much the same way President Bush
framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With
China, Russia and North Korea all
presenting vastly more formidable
challenges to America and its allies than
Iran, one has to wonder where team
Trump gets its ideas.
Though Ms. Haley’s presentation
missed the mark, and no one other than
the national security elite will even read
the strategy, it won’t matter. We’ve seen
this before: a campaign built on the
politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the
case for war. And the American people
have apparently become so accustomed
to executive branch warmongering —
approved almost unanimously by the
Congress — that such actions are not
significantly contested.
So far, news organizations have largely failed to refute false narratives coming out of the Trump White House on
Iran. In early November, media outlets
latched onto claims
by unnamed AmeriI helped
can officials that
Colin Powell
prepare his
documents from
Osama bin Laden’s
compound represented “evidence of
the invasion
Iran’s support of Al
of Iraq 15
Qaeda’s war with the
years ago.
United States.”
Trump’s adIt’s a vivid remindministration
er of Vice President
is doing the
Dick Cheney’s dessame thing
perate attempts in
today with
2002-2003 to conjure
up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s relationship with Al
Qaeda from detainees at Guantánamo
Bay. It harks back to C.I.A. Director
George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam
Hussein and Osama bin Laden was
ironclad in the lead-up to his United
Nations presentation. Today, we know
how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.
Today, the analysts claiming close ties
between Al Qaeda and Iran come from
the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, which vehemently opposes the Iran
nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for
regime change in Iran, while taking
money from hawks like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, who have made
clear what their goals are with Iran.
It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19
hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and
none were Iranians. Or that, according
to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively
hostile to the United States, only one is
loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than
ever the Foundation for Defense of
Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s
Office of Special Plans that pushed
falsehoods in support of waging war
with Iraq.
The Trump administration’s case for
war with Iran ranges much wider than
Ms. Haley’s work. We should include the
president’s decertification ultimatum in
January that Congress must “fix” the
Iran nuclear deal, despite the reality of
Iran’s compliance; the White House’s
pressure on the intelligence community
to cook up evidence of Iran’s noncompliance; and the administration’s choosing
to view the recent protests in Iran as the
beginning of regime change. Like the
Bush administration before, these
seemingly disconnected events serve to
create a narrative in which war with
Iran is the only viable policy.
As I look back at our lock-step march
toward war with Iraq, I realize that it
didn’t seem to matter to us that we used
shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence;
that it was unrealistic to argue that the
war would “pay for itself,” rather than
cost trillions of dollars; that we might be
hopelessly naïve in thinking that the
war would lead to democracy instead of
pushing the region into a downward
spiral. The sole purpose of our actions
was to sell the American people on the
case for war with Iraq. Polls show that
we did. Mr. Trump and his team are
trying to do it again. If we’re not careful,
they’ll succeed.
a retired Army
colonel who teaches at the College of
William & Mary, was chief of staff to
Secretary of State Colin Powell from
2002 to 2005.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018 | 11
The necessary immigration debate
Ross Douthat
A bottom-line presidency
Timothy Egan
Well before The Wall Street Journal
reported that a porn star with the
meteorological name of Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 to keep quiet
about sex with Donald Trump, it was
clear that a bigger and more crass
proposition would be emerging from
the White House.
Going into the midterm elections,
Trump is offering this deal to his supporters: Say nothing about the lies, the
bullying, the accusations of sexual
misconduct from more than a dozen
women, the undermining of the rule of
law, the abdication of basic decency —
and in turn he will make you rich.
Essentially, it’s a payoff. Trump
himself has framed it this way. When
asked about his coming health exam
last month, he said, “It better go well,
otherwise the stock market will not be
happy.” He used the same phrase when
talking about his hard-line position on
Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton
oversaw spectacular gains in the stock
market — among the best in history.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose
227 percent during Clinton’s eight
years and 149 percent under Obama.
Yet, neither of those men held the
market out as hostage to a backward
agenda and a deranged personality.
Trump is running a bottom-line presidency — as soulless as a Kremlin bot
on Facebook — in which people who
know better are asked to stay quiet in
exchange for a short-term payoff.
Modern presidents, dating at least to
Ronald Reagan, have urged voters to
ask one question going into pivotal
elections: Are you better off than you
were before? It’s a reasonable standard. But it has never been the leverage
for allowing a democracy to collapse.
You heard some uplifting words
during the State of the Union address,
words with all the staying power of
vapor from a sewage vent. But a more
honest assessment of what this presidency represents came from Trump
when he was in his element, surrounded by Mar-a-Lago cronies. “You
all just got a lot richer,” he told a bejeweled and pink-faced crowd just a few
hours after signing the $1.5 trillion tax
cut in December.
Even as Trump spoke before Congress on Tuesday, he monetized the
speech, with donors paying to have
their name live-streamed across a
Trump campaign web page.
A cartoon in Politico showed a naked
Trump with a king’s crown and a golf
club walking down a red carpet. “I
know, I know,” one man says to another. “Just keep
thinking about your
“Are you
stock portfolio.”
better off
The question for
than you
those yet to join the
were before?” enablers is: What’s
is a reasonthe price — a record
able standard. stock market in
which 10 percent of
But it has
Americans own 84
never been
percent of the marthe leverage
wealth, a tax cut
for allowing a ket
that burdens the
working poor in
to collapse.
years to come — for
saying nothing?
Evangelical Christians were among the first to sign on to
a Stormy Daniels proposition. In the
infamous words of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council,
Trump gets a “do-over” for the infidelity allegation. Yes, because nothing
says family values like a thrice-married man who allegedly cheats on his
latest wife just after she gives birth to
their son. And Pat Robertson, the
mush-headed moralist who still fogs up
many a television screen with his
gaseous utterances, told Trump last
summer, “I’m so proud of everything
you’re doing.”
For these self-appointed guardians
of the soul, the bargain is bigger than
30 pieces of silver: It’s a promise that
Trump will continue to protect their
tax-exempt empires, in the name of
religious freedom.
For Republicans in Congress, the
pact is more consequential. They will
ignore the pleadings of career law
enforcement officials in order to stoke
fantasies of a deep-state coup against
the president. These politicians are
counting on a base that will look the
other way as they undermine Robert
Mueller’s investigation into Russian
tampering with the election.
It’s a good bet. After Trump called
the American justice system “a joke”
and “a laughingstock,” after he fired
the F.B.I. director because he would
not pledge loyalty to him, after he told
another top lawman that his wife was
“a loser,” after he referred to members
of the intelligence community as “political hacks,” it was all quiet on the
Republican front.
He can falsely say that his State of
the Union speech drew the highest
audience in history — in fact, it ranked
ninth since 1993 — because this president has told more than 2,000 lies in a
year and hasn’t been called out for
them by the people who signed on to
But what happens if the bargain
crumbles? What if the market tanks —
as the Dow did in losing more than 500
points a few days ago? Do the sycophants bail? Or do they hold out for
something more — like the lobbyists
now drafting legislation and gutting
regulations that affect the companies
that pay them?
Beware, those of you who have made
your deal with the Stormy Daniels
presidency. You can take your settlement money — as the people who
signed up for the fraudulent Trump
University did — but you still got
TIMOTHY EGAN, a former national correspondent for The Times, writes about
the environment, the American West
and politics.
A hackable political future Fewer female
if those stories are fake.
It might be impossible to stop the
advance of this kind of technology. But
the relevant algorithms here aren’t
only the ones that run on computer
hardware. They are also the ones that
undergird our too easily hacked media
system, where garbage acquires the
perfumed scent of legitimacy with all
too much ease. Editors, journalists and
news producers can play a role here —
for good or for bad.
Outlets like Fox News spread stories
about the murder of Democratic staff
members and F.B.I. conspiracies to
frame the president. Traditional news
organizations, fearing that they might
be left behind in the new attention
economy, struggle to maximize “engagement with content.”
This gives them a
built-in incentive to
spread informational
assumes that
viruses that enfeeble
citizens share
the very democratic
the same
institutions that
allow a free media to
We don’t.
thrive. Cable news
shows consider it
their professional
duty to provide “balance” by giving
partisan talking heads free rein to
spout nonsense — or amplify the nonsense of our current president.
It already feels as though we are
living in an alternative science-fiction
universe where no one agrees on what
it true. Just think how much worse it
will be when fake news becomes fake
video. Democracy assumes that its
citizens share the same reality. We’re
about to find out whether democracy
can be preserved when this assumption no longer holds.
percent of board seats in six of Latin
America’s largest economies. Within
legislatures, women rarely lead their
parties’ delegations, and they remain
absent from the most prestigious committees.
In Colombia, a study found that
nearly a quarter of female elected
officials felt silenced and were denied
resources by their parties, and 40
percent of female mayors reported
sexist treatment. Sometimes, resistance to female politicians takes violent
forms. Parties have long undermined
quotas by asking women to resign
once elected: Juana Quispe, a councilwoman in Bolivia, was beaten to death
for refusing to do so.
Gender and parity laws matter, and
they have too much public support for
politicians to roll them back. Even
conservative Chile now has a gender
quota for the legislature, which almost
doubled the number of women in Congress in the election where the right
made a huge comeback. But ending the
sexism and hostility that drives women
from power requires changing cultural
attitudes and ending impunity toward
violence against women.
Costa Rica has tackled traditional
notions about who should lead by
applying quotas to the civil-society
sector. By law, nonprofit organizations
must have gender parity in their top
leadership positions. This includes
charitable, humanitarian and socialservice organizations, bringing men
into positions from which they’ve
historically been absent.
After all, if more women take power
in politics and business, men will need
something else to do.
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Imagine what even less scrupulous
activists could do with the power to
create “video” framing real people for
things they’ve never actually done.
One harrowing potential eventuality:
Fake video and audio may become so
convincing that it can’t be distinguished from real recordings, rendering audio and video evidence inadmissible in court.
A program called Face2Face, developed at Stanford, films one person
speaking, then manipulates that person’s image to resemble someone
else’s. Throw in voice manipulation
technology, and you can literally make
anyone say anything — or at least
seem to.
The technology isn’t quite there;
Princess Leia was a little wooden, if
you looked carefully. But it’s closer
than you might think. And even when
fake video isn’t perfect, it can convince
people who want to be convinced,
especially when it reinforces offensive
gender or racial stereotypes.
Another harrowing potential is the
ability to trick the algorithms behind
self-driving cars to not recognize traffic signs. Computer scientists have
shown that nearly invisible changes to
a stop sign can fool algorithms into
thinking it says yield instead. Imagine
if one of these cars contained a dissident challenging a dictator.
In 2007, Barack Obama’s political
opponents insisted that footage existed
of Michelle Obama ranting against
“whitey.” In the future, they may not
have to worry about whether it actually existed. If someone called their
bluff, they may simply be able to invent it, using data from stock photos
and pre-existing footage.
The next step would be one we are
already familiar with: the exploitation
of the algorithms used by social media
sites like Twitter and Facebook to
spread stories virally to those most
inclined to show interest in them, even
HENRY J. FARRELL is a professor of political science and international affairs at
the George Washington University. RICK
PERLSTEIN is the author, most recently, of
“The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of
Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”
JENNIFER M. PISCOPO is an assistant
professor of politics at Occidental College.
One important task for a columnist is
figuring out which ideas can be usefully argued over and which ones can’t.
The responses to my column last week
urging Democrats to negotiate with
Stephen Miller and Donald Trump on
immigration, because a deal hammered out with restrictionists would
have more durability and democratic
legitimacy, were helpfully divided
between the first category and the
The argument-ending rejoinders ran
as follows: Trump is a racist, Miller is
a racist, and making major deals with
them normalizes presidential bigotry.
Since I agree that Trump’s race-baiting
is disgraceful, I respect that rejoinder,
and I don’t think my own arguments
are likely to dislodge people from a
firm point of moral principle.
But another kind of response is
worth disputing. Instead of making a
moral judgment, it purports to make
an empirical one, implying that the
serious case for immigration restriction is all but nonexistent, and that
negotiating with restrictionists is
therefore like negotiating with flatearthers.
I want to challenge this view by
expanding on two points that I mentioned last week, both of which offer
reasons to regard immigration as a
normal policy question with costs as
well as benefits to any course you
First, as mass immigration increases
diversity, it reduces social cohesion and
civic trust. This is not a universal law,
as the economics writer Noah Smith
has pointed out; there are counterexamples and ways to resist the trend.
However, it is a finding that strongly
comports with the real-world experience of Europe and America, where as
cultural diversity has increased so has
social distrust, elite-populist conflict,
and the racial, religious and generational polarization of political parties.
Moreover, the trust problem is not a
simple matter of racist natives mistrusting foreigners, since social trust is
often weakest among minorities —
which is one reason why the most
diverse generation in American history, the millennials, is also the least
trusting. So you can see the political
effects of distrust even if you ignore
the Trump Republicans entirely: It’s
one reason why campus politics are so
toxic, why Democrats struggle to keep
their diverse coalition politically engaged, and why the Bernie-Hillary
contest produced so many cries of
racism and sexism.
Then linked to these ethno-cultural
tensions are the tensions of class,
where mass immigration favors stratification and elite self-segregation. In
the United States, as in France and
England, regions and cities with the
largest immigrant populations are
often the wealthiest and most dynamic.
But this doesn’t mean that poorer
regions are dying from their own xenophobia, as is someWhy the case times suggested. The
hinterlands are also
for limits
filled with people
is worth
who might want to
move to wealthier
regions (or who used
to live there) but
can’t because an immigrants-andprofessionals ecosystem effectively
prices out the middle class.
It is a testament to immigrants’ grit
and determination that they can thrive
working long hours for low wages
while living in crowded housing with
long commutes. But the social order of,
say, the Bay Area or greater Paris is
not one that can serve for an entire
country — and it ill-serves not only
lower-middle-class natives but also the
descendants of the immigrants themselves, whose ability to advance beyond their parents is limited by a
continued arrival of new workers who
compete with them for jobs and wages
and housing.
Thus our rich and diverse states also
often feature high poverty rates when
their cost of living is considered, while
second and third-generation immigrants often drift into the same stagnation as the white working class . . .
. . . And they do so out of sight and
mind for the winners in this system,
who inhabit a world where they only
see their fellow winners and their
hard-working multiethnic service
class. Which in turn encourages them
toward mild contempt for their fellow
The Statue of Liberty still keeps a light on
for immigrants.
countrymen who don’t want to live
under a cosmopolitan-ruled caste
system, who feel alienated from the
Californian or Parisian future.
For some pro-immigration Republicans this contempt is Ayn Randian:
We’ll all be better off with more hardworking immigrants and fewer shiftless
mooching natives. For pro-immigration
liberals it’s the predictable cultural
triumphalism: The arc of history is
long, but thanks to immigration we
won’t have to cater to heartland gunclingers any longer.
In both cases there’s a fantasy of
replacement that’s politically corrosive, and that’s one reason why Donald
Trump is president and Jeb! and Hillary are not.
Now all of the foregoing is one-sided.
It leaves out the real advantages of
immigration, economic and humanitarian, which are part of the policy calculus as well — as is the recent decline in
illegal immigration, and the fact that
the problems I’ve identified are more
manageable in America than Europe.
Hence my own view that keeping
current immigration levels while bringing in more immigrants to compete
with our economy’s winners and fewer
to compete for low-wage work represents a reasonable middle ground.
But the calculus is not simple, a
middle ground is actually worth seeking, and recent immigration plays a
role not only in America’s greatness,
but in our divisions and disappointments as well.
March 7th, Copenhagen
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12 | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018
Keeping your older iPhone powered up
Asking Siri
for news
On my Amazon Echo at home, I can
ask “What’s new?” and get a briefing
from sources I’ve selected for news,
business, sports and so on. Is there
anything similar to that for an iPhone
so I can get this type of information
read to me while I’m in the car?
Brian X. Chen
When Kathryn Schipper discovered in
December that her iPhone had slowed
down because it needed a new battery,
she unknowingly walked into the middle of a growing Apple controversy —
and is now mired in the continuing
Late last year, Apple said a software
feature was slowing down iPhones that
had aged batteries, immediately drawing accusations that the company was
trying to force people to upgrade to its
newest iPhones. In response, Apple
said customers could get their iPhone
batteries replaced at its stores for a
discounted price of $29, down from $79.
Yet when Ms. Schipper, who lives in
Seattle, took her iPhone 6 Plus, purchased in 2014, to an Apple store in
early January, she was told that the
store was out of replacement batteries
for at least two weeks. An Apple representative later left her a voice mail
message with a new estimated wait
time: up to four months.
“I feel like I’m waiting outside of a
club and the bouncer won’t let me in
because I’m not fashionably enough
dressed,” Ms. Schipper said in a phone
interview. “I’m at the back of the line
because I don’t have a fancy phone.”
For iPhone owners, Ms. Schipper’s
experience does not have to be the way
forward. Even as Apple appears to be
struggling to keep up with customers
asking for new batteries, there are
other ways to make sure your smartphone is still running. The workarounds include finding a reputable
third-party repair shop, using a battery
pack or replacing the battery on your
Apple may be dealing with the fallout for a while. The company published a lengthy memo in December
saying that smartphone batteries
became less effective over time and
that its software was intended to prevent iPhones with older batteries from
unexpected shutdowns. Apple also
apologized to customers for the slowdowns, offered discounts for its battery-replacement program and said it
would introduce software to gain visibility into the health of a battery.
Yet since then, consumer advocacy
groups have filed lawsuits against the
company for failing to disclose that the
software would throttle old iPhones.
The United States Justice Department
and Securities and Exchange Commission have also started an inquiry into
the matter, according to a person with
knowledge of the situation, who asked
not to be identified because the details
were confidential. Bloomberg earlier
reported the inquiry.
Last week, Apple said in a statement
that it had received questions from
some government agencies and that it
was responding to them; the company
did not specify the agencies it had
heard from. The Justice Department
declined to comment.
As for the wait times that Ms. Schipper and others are experiencing for a
battery replacement, a spokeswoman
referred to Apple’s support webpage,
which states that battery supplies at
its stores may be limited.
Let’s not wait around. Here’s a guide
to other solutions to keep an iPhone
running in the absence of an Apple
battery replacement.
Plenty of irate Apple customers are
turning to local third-party repair
shops to get their iPhone batteries
replaced. At Mega Mobile Boston,
twice as many customers are coming
in for iPhone battery replacements
than in years past, said Adam Fullerton, the store’s operations manager.
Third-party repairs are a decent —
but imperfect — solution. One drawback is that they vary in quality; some
repair shops buy lower-quality batteries that don’t last. So to find a good
shop, rely on word of mouth and reviews on the web, similar to how you
might seek out a good car mechanic.
Another issue is that if you service
your phone with a third-party battery
and later take your device in to Apple
for repair, the company could refuse to
service your phone. So if you go the
third-party route, chances are you will
have to stick with third-party repair
shops through the end of your phone’s
There’s a less risky route here. On
Apple’s support webpage, you can look
up third-party repair shops that are
authorized by Apple as service
providers. These are technicians who
have been trained by Apple and carry
original parts. But the list is short.
If you find a good local fixer, there
are plenty of benefits to sticking with
one long term. For one, third-party
shops tend to have shorter waits. Mr.
Fullerton said his shop could typically
get an iPhone battery replacement
done in about 30 minutes. The process
involves opening the device, cleaning
away the old waterproofing adhesive,
replacing the battery and applying a
new waterproofing adhesive.
For another, local repair shops make
their prices competitive with the manufacturer’s. In the case of batteries,
many shops are discounting their
battery replacements to match Apple’s
$29 pricing.
“We’re probably losing money on it
with the cost of a half-hour time from a
technician,” Mr. Fullerton said. “But it’s
like a loss leader in any other industry.
If you’re Best Buy and you get them to
buy one item at cost, maybe you can
teach them something about your
Finding a good repair shop can feel
daunting, but if you ask around, your
peers will probably have recommendations.
You can always replace an iPhone
battery by yourself. The pros: You can
choose the best components for repairs
and minimize costs. The cons: Learning repairs can be time consuming,
and if you mess up, you have no one to
blame but yourself. And again, Apple
stores could refuse to service your
phone if it sees you have repaired it
with third-party parts.
A good place to start for D.I.Y. repairs is iFixit, a company that provides
instruction manuals and components
for repairing devices. It is offering
discounts on battery replacement kits
for older iPhones, which cost $17 to
$29. Each kit includes a new battery
and the tools for disassembling
Installing a phone battery can be
intimidating. Replacing an iPhone 7
battery, for example, requires eight
tools and 28 steps.
If you don’t feel confident hiring a
third-party fixer or installing your own
battery, you can always wait for Apple
to replace your battery. But since that
could take weeks or months, don’t
suffer with a sapped phone battery in
the meantime.
A better temporary solution is to
invest in a battery pack that you can
carry around until replacement batteries arrive at an Apple store. Wirecutter,
a New York Times company that reviews products, has tested hundreds of
battery packs to recommend a few. My
favorite is the Anker PowerCore 20100,
which can charge a smartphone every
day for a week.
Ms. Schipper, the Seattle resident, is
considering buying a battery pack. In
the meantime, she is constantly plugging her iPhone into a power outlet
because her battery lasts only two
hours a day.
Yet she has resisted what she thinks
Apple wants: for her to buy a new
“I was tempted to just chuck this
phone and suck it up and spend $1,000plus and get the iPhone X,” she said. “I
said, ‘No, darn it, I have a budget I’m
saving up.’ I’m not going to let Apple
push me around.”
Uphill climb for installed car navigation units
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How do you get someone to pay hundreds of dollars for an inferior product,
when most people already have a
better one in their pocket?
That’s the problem facing carmakers
trying to sell built-in navigation systems when superior alternatives such
as Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze
are available for free to anyone with a
smartphone — which is almost everybody.
Most in-dash navigation systems
aren’t as smart as your phone, perhaps
lacking traffic data or point-of-interest
information, and stuck with clunky
update procedures. And solutions like
Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto,
which essentially emulate your phone
on the screen of your car’s console,
force carmakers to cede an important
driver experience to third parties.
But improvements are on the horizon. In-dash navigation systems will
be getting smarter, not just learning
your preferences and using data connections for timely updates, but crowdsourcing sensor information from
connected vehicles to assess traffic
problems and road conditions.
And next-generation navigation
systems are not just an important way
for carmakers to interact with drivers.
They are also a crucial step in the
development of autonomous vehicles.
Garmin and TomTom — companies
that became best known for GPS units
that sit atop the dash — are also major
providers of mapping data and in-dash
user interfaces to car manufacturers.
TomTom is “collecting data on a
large scale, learning how to aggregate
it to spot trends in traffic for autonomous vehicles,” its chief executive,
Harold Goddijn, said. “All the car manufacturers will need to share that
data.” But for now, many carmakers
bundle their navigation systems with
other features, requiring buyers to
take one in order to get something else
they actually want.
Do you want your gauges to appear
on a digital display, instead of a standard instrument panel? Buyers of certain trim levels of some Audi and Volvo
models may have to purchase a bundle
that includes navigation. Volvo charges
an additional $1,400 in its XC60, while
Audi’s could cost as much as $3,000,
depending on the vehicle.
Buyers of Alfa Romeo’s base Giulia
model who want Sirius XM satellite
radio must take the navigation system,
too — at a cost of $1,900.
“This business model is not sustainable,” said Don Butler, Ford’s executive
director for connected vehicles and
Even with their limitations, in-dash
systems have some advantages.
They’re convenient and uncluttered.
There’s no need to find a way to suspend a smartphone and its dangling
charge cable in the middle of the instrument panel. They use a vehicle’s
built-in controls, and there’s no danger
of running out of power.
But in-dash systems typically store
data locally, meaning information may
be inaccurate and outdated. Upgrading
such systems can be difficult or even
impossible. Even when it can be done,
it can be a multistep process of downloading new data to a flash drive and
then transferring it to the vehicle.
In a recent test of a 2015 model-year
car, the built-in navigation system had
no listing for a winery that has been in
business for 15 years. Both Apple Maps
and Google Maps found it in a split
second. That’s because smartphone
navigation apps are cloud-based, con-
The 2019 Porsche Cayenne will have a next-generation navigation system from HERE.
tinually updated with new information.
But in-dash systems are closing the
gap. On the way are products that are
connected to the cloud and easily
upgraded via an over-the-air data
connection. Tesla uses over-the-air
updates to occasionally renew its
maps, while Ford has already used
such updates to add CarPlay and Android Auto functionality to models with
its Sync 3 system. And soon, maps will
rely not just on stored information but
on constantly updated data gleaned
from a vehicle’s cameras and sensors
and data from other drivers.
“Pressure from Google Maps and
Apple Maps made automobile manufacturers realize they have to step up
with over-the-air updates of their maps
and their software,” Mr. Goddijn said.
Many manufacturers get their map
data from third-party companies and
then create their own user interface
design. HERE, owned by Audi, BMW
and Daimler, also supplies data to
Ford. Garmin and TomTom provide
user interfaces and mapping data for
Apple Maps and many vehicle manufacturers, including Honda and Tesla.
HERE’s next-generation in-dash
navigation technology will debut this
year in Audi’s new A8 sedan and the
2019 Porsche Cayenne. The A8 will,
among other things, use HERE technology to learn a driver’s route preferences and then make more informed
route suggestions.
Drivers can use the HERE smartphone app at home to plan a route,
which will be automatically transferred
to the in-vehicle system. When the
driver reaches his or her destination,
the app will pick up from there for foot
or public transit directions.
Along the lines of Amazon’s Alexa flash
briefing feature, Apple’s Siri virtual
assistant has a new skill to help users
keep up with current events. (Apple’s
own Echo competitor, the HomePod
speaker, is arriving soon.) In response
to the command, “Hey, Siri, give me
the news,” the software plays the latest
newscast from NPR in the United
States or other news outlets in some
other countries. If you prefer another
news source you can tell Siri to switch
to Fox News, CNN or an audio update
from The Washington Post.
If you have news shows in your
iPhone’s Podcasts app, you can also
order the software to start playing a
show by name. If the program does not
respond to the sound of your voice
saying “Hey, Siri,” check your settings
to make sure the hands-free control is
enabled. Tap the Settings icon on the
home screen, select Siri & Search and
turn on the button next to the “Listen
for ‘Hey Siri’ ” option.
The iPhone 6s or later (or at least an
iPad Pro) does not need to be connected to power to use the “Hey, Siri”
command, but older models must be
plugged in to a charger or USB jack.
Alternative ways of summoning Siri
include pressing the Home or side
buttons, depending on the model of
your phone — but are not the safest
way of interacting with the phone
while driving.
The Google Assistant app for Android and for iOS can also handle the
request when you say something like,
“O.K., Google, I want to listen to the
news.” Other third-party apps that
stream news shows are available in the
App Store.
Route-mapping will be handled on
HERE’s servers, which will take into
account traffic conditions far off the
planned path that could nevertheless
affect navigation. In addition, map data
will include not just the road itself but
information on weather, curves, inclines, junctions and city limits, allowing the vehicle to adjust its speed
In-dash navigation systems will also
use information gleaned from a vehicle’s sensors and cameras to position a
vehicle in a lane, with accuracy within
eight inches. “Our sensor technology
will allow us to tell drivers to remain in
one lane on a road for the fastest travel
time,” Mr. Butler, of Ford, said.
Technology from TomTom will let
drivers indicate whether they’re looking for the fastest route, or the one
with the least stop-and-go traffic, and
be instructed accordingly. When a
single vehicle using HERE technology
passes over a pothole, it will be recorded and subsequent vehicles directed around it.
HERE is already accumulating such
passively derived road data from
500,000 vehicles across the world.
Currently, the company is sharing its
data with only its three big German
In the United States, about 14 percent of cars on the road have the sensors necessary to transmit road conditions, Mr. Butler said.
With the development of autonomous vehicles, that sort of information
becomes even more important, enabling a car to learn about road conditions from other vehicles and safely
navigate around accidents, tie-ups,
potholes and flash floods. “Currently,
our in-dash navigation systems are at
a disadvantage compared to smartphone apps,” Mr. Butler said. “But
soon, we’ll be at an advantage.”
Tell the Siri assistant, “Give me the
news,” and the software offers up a
National Public Radio newscast.
Viewing Netflix
in French
I have a Netflix account for streaming
only. Is there a list of all the movies
and shows available with Frenchdubbed audio?
Netflix supports alternate audio and
subtitles in multiple languages for
much of its content, but not every
show or movie is available in every
supported language. One way to see
what items are available in French (or
another language) in your region is to
log into your Netflix account and point
your browser to
On the Audio & Subtitles page, use
the drop-down menus to select Audio
or onscreen Subtitles, and then choose
a language. In the United States, 18
languages (including French, German,
Hindi, Spanish, Tagalog and more) are
currently listed. Once you have made
your menu selections, Netflix shows
you the available content.
When you have chosen a show you
know has French audio available, you
need to enable the alternate dialogue
track. For smartphones and tablets,
start the show, then tap the screen and
then tap the word-balloon icon that
appears at the top. In the menu that
opens, select the language you prefer,
such as French, from the list to hear
the audio track in that language.
Getting to the language setting on a
set-top streaming box varies by model,
so check your help guide. On the Netflix app on a Roku box, for example,
choose a video, select Audio & Subtitles on the description page and pick
your language before going back to the
description page and pressing the Play
You can change your preferred
default language, style of subtitle text,
auto-play preference and more in your
Netflix account settings. To get there,
log in to, select your profile
icon on the right side of the screen and
choose Account. J. D. BIERSDORFER
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14 | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018
‘Porgy and Bess’ with a white cast
Hungary’s state opera
defies the creators’ wish
for only black singers
The Hungarian State Opera’s new staging of the Gershwin opera “Porgy and
Bess” is raising eyebrows here and
abroad. The production, whose fourperformance run will end Thursday, features a predominantly white cast in a
work whose authors intended it to be
staged by black performers.
This landmark 1935 opera, based on a
novel and a subsequent play, is set in the
fictional African-American community
of Catfish Row in Charleston, S.C. It is
the love story of a beggar with a disability and a drug-addicted woman in an impoverished community, struggling with
violence and racism. In the production
in Budapest, the action has been transplanted to a refugee camp in an airplane
hangar, at an unspecified time and
The decision to use white singers is
contrary to the clear wishes of George
and Ira Gershwin, whose estates stipulate that the opera be performed only by
black casts. The production raises questions about race and representation, and
shows how differently the opera is regarded in the United States and Central
A government-friendly website
wrote, “Only blacks used to be
able to perform this opera
because of racist restrictions.”
In 1935, George Gershwin turned
down a hefty commission to have the
Metropolitan Opera produce “Porgy
and Bess,” and he rebuffed Al Jolson’s
interest in performing the work, because both would have done it in blackface. The Hungarian State Opera did,
however, present the opera using blackface in the 1970s and 1980s, for a total of
144 performances. Although the current
production features mostly white performers, they do not present themselves
as black.
Szilvester Okovacs, the Hungarian
State Opera’s general director, said that
the current contract the opera house
signed with the Gershwin estate’s
agents, Tams-Witmark in New York, did
not contain any clause specifying casting limitations. In recounting a conversation that took place during negotiations, Mr. Okovacs explained, “They
said only an all-black cast, nothing else.”
“But we didn’t see it in the contract,”
he added. “We have the contract, and it
is without this language.”
However, he said, the opera house
was instructed by Tams-Witmark to add
a sentence to all printed materials stating that the production was taking place
without authorization and “is contrary
to the requirements for the presentation
of the work.” Tams-Witmark confirmed
this instruction but did not reply to requests for further information. This
statement now appears on advertisements for the opera throughout the city.
Mr. Okovacs said that the point of this
production was to take the opera “out of
context, so it can’t relate to any specific
place.” Although the setting is said to be
an airport, it is reminiscent of real-life
scenes in a Budapest train station in
2015, where migrants and refugees
camped for weeks before most of them
Top and above, two views of the new “Porgy and Bess” at the Hungarian State Opera, which presented it using blackface in the 1970s
and 1980s. This time, the action has been transplanted to a refugee camp in an airplane hangar, at an unspecified time and place.
proceeded to other countries. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, and
the right-wing government he leads
have been on the offensive since then
over the European Union’s migration
policies, which require member states
to resettle a quota of refugees. Last
month, at a meeting in Budapest of the
Visegrad Group, an alliance of Central
European nations, Mr. Orban said, “We
do not wish to become a destination
country for migrants.”
The media here has offered widespread support to Mr. Okovacs for bringing back a popular production after decades. Origo, a government-friendly
news website, published an article with
the headline “Only blacks used to be
able to perform this opera because of
racist restrictions.” And the online theater magazine Szinhaz welcomed what
it referred to as the Hungarian State Opera’s “breaking the ice” by staging the
opera with “its excellent Hungarian
Many conservative columnists, including in the daily Magyar Nemzet,
have denounced the “political correctness” of performing the opera only with
a black cast. “Political correctness is
slowly devouring aesthetics,” one columnist said.
The director of the production, Andras Almasi-Toth, told Szinhaz that
“while performance and staging solu-
tions have progressed — we play, sing
and stage Puccini differently from 50
years ago — this opera was left out,
which makes for a very sterile production. It can only take place on Catfish
Row in the 1930s, which gives it a fairytale like quality, devoid of its real-life aspects.”
In a telephone interview, Dr. Ronald
Crutcher, an African-American music
scholar and president of the University
of Richmond, in Virginia, said that he
thought the idea of transplanting
“Porgy and Bess” to somewhere other
than Catfish Row was “fascinating” but
added that “the whole notion of recasting the story as an immigrant struggle is
hard to imagine. It’s an iconic piece that
was written at a critically important
time, particularly in America,” he continued.
But awareness of this is limited here
in Hungary. Adam Kertesz, 69, an academic who was in the audience for the
production’s premiere, said he was unfamiliar with the opera’s historical context. “I didn’t know about all that,” Mr.
Kertesz said. “I just love the music. I saw
the 1983 production of ‘Porgy’ here. The
singers blackened their faces, but I didn’t know what that meant in the U.S. The
music is what I remember.”
Palko Karasz contributed reporting from
Sexy supernova to affable bro
Who is asking for this state of affairs
to continue? Not Mr. Timberlake, who
on his sometimes convincing, sometimes limp new album “Man of the
Woods” — his first since the two volumes of “The 20/20 Experience” in
2013 — is at his most idiosyncratic, his
most historically minded and his most
Mr. Timberlake, in his post ‘N Sync
years, has had two real friends: Timbaland and the Neptunes. They made his
first two albums beacons of forwardthinking soul, buffeting a still soft-atthe-edges Timberlake with a strong
conceptual framework he could claim
as his own.
But in the years since “FutureSex/
LoveSounds,” the last great Timberlake album, those producers have
evolved from reliable, zeitgeist-shaping
hitmakers to preservationists.
For this phase of Mr. Timberlake’s
career — he is 37 now, a sometime
actor and Jimmy Fallon foil, and far
from the warp-speed engines that
change the sound of pop — that’s a
perfect fit.
“Man of the Woods” posits Mr. Timberlake not as a sex-symbol soul supernova, but as an affable bro who
enjoys the funk, soul and disco of the
1970s. The music here is tactile and
warm: erotically lush disco on “Montana,” offhand Southern gospel on
“Young Man,” casual country-funk on
the title track.
Timbaland and the Neptunes handle
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The first record since 2013
from Justin Timberlake
largely avoids the present
We are now approaching the 12th year
of the delusion that Justin Timberlake
remains an essential pop star.
This is partly because subsequent
editions have lacked his flair, his comfort with the combination of expressiveness and neediness that’s essential
to sustained stardom. And also his
talents: Peak Timberlake was lithe,
lightly carnal, effortless. His first two
solo albums, “Justified” and “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” were standardbearers of how to grow boy-band unctuousness into grown-man smolder.
He was a rocket.
Since then, he’s returned to earth.
Whether exploring funk or cheery
soundtrack cheese, he’s been in a kind
of slow retreat from the spotlight,
while somehow remaining at its center.
He remains one of pop’s leading figures — on Sunday, he was the featured
performer at the Super Bowl halftime
show, 14 years after his participation in
the wardrobe malfunction that derailed
Janet Jackson’s career but left him
largely unscathed.
the vast majority of the production,
and most of it looks backward, not
forward. The Neptunes, especially,
thrive with this approach, especially on
“Higher Higher,” a gleaming 1970s
soundtrack homage. There are outliers
— the throbbing pulse of “Filthy” has
reverberations of acid house, and
“Supplies” suggests someone has been
listening to Migos — but for much of
this album, Mr. Timberlake is content
to live in the past.
Left, Justin Timberlake onstage in September, and above, his new album.
What’s more, Mr. Timberlake has a
third friend now: Chris Stapleton, stoic
king of earthen country music, who
appears here a few times as a songwriter, on guitar and on “Say Something,” in duet. His writing, especially
on “The Hard Stuff,” is evocative.
(That song would sound better sung by
Mr. Stapleton.) And on “Say Something,” he sings with grounded purpose.
Early whispers about this album,
prompted in part by a video teaser in
which Mr. Timberlake wore fringe and
frolicked on a plain, suggested Mr.
Timberlake was embracing American
roots and country music. But while it
turns out that visual marketing tactic
wasn’t much more than that — in the
eyes of some, it was meant to telegraph a return to whiteness for an
artist who’s always openly flirted with
black aesthetics — there was some
truth embedded therein.
How Mr. Timberlake goes about it,
though, is novel. Rather than bow
explicitly to country music, he revisits
its greasy overlaps with funk. The
guitars on this album often bend, but
the basslines are punchy, too.
That musicology lesson is the loudest part of this album, certainly louder
than Mr. Timberlake, whose reticence
is a recurring feature here. His vocals
often recede so far in the mix that their
inherent sweetness gets lost.
And his words often fall short, serving as a better a rhythmic component
than an emotional one. His lyrics are
cheesy, or simply empty — that’s
harmless when the production
sparkles, but they glow with a radioactive tint when it’s not, like on the tacky
“Wave” (“We’re getting better, aging
like your favorite wine/I’ve got on
rose-colored glasses, you’re batting
your eyelashes”) or the inexplicable
“Livin’ Off the Land,” which suggests a
never-made 1970s hicksploitation film.
Mr. Timberlake is at his best on
“Man of the Woods” when he sounds
as if he’s fronting a family band.
(Sometimes, that’s literal, as both his
wife and son have credited vocals on
this album.) In an exceedingly un-popstar way, the whole of these songs is
far greater than his input. He never
crowds the room.
It’s possible that Mr. Timberlake
does not perceive himself — or wish to
present himself — as the oxygenhoovering superstar the celebrity
ecosystem has long demanded of him.
And maybe this album that barely
flirts with the sounds of the day is, in
actuality, the ultimate superstar indulgence — not too big to fail, but too big
to care.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018 | 15
Radical, but not chic
heavy floor (but not the beams) to
reveal the river below.
A short, sometimes alarming video
provides glimpses of the artist, blowtorch in hand, working from what
appears to be a large swing or small
platform made of rope and plywood.
Last year the Whitney Museum
unveiled plans to have David Hammons commemorate “Day’s End” with
a full-scale steel outline of the old pier.
Perhaps it should include the outlines
of Matta-Clark’s cuts.
An exhibition captures
the spirit of a trailblazing
artist of the 1960s and ’70s
The small Bronx Museum of the Arts
in New York regularly hits above its
weight. It is doing so again with “Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitect,” a
streamlined exhibition of the work of
this insurrectionary artist running
through April 8. The show creates a
remarkably full picture of an irrepressible and unfailingly D.I.Y. maverick
who is revered as one of the prime
movers in the juggernaut of Conceptual, Process and Performance art that
emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s.
With a range that few peers equaled,
he contributed to all of these genres.
Matta-Clark and his twin brother,
John Sebastian, were born in New
York to the Chilean Surrealist painter
Roberto Matta and Anne Clark, an
American artist and fashion designer.
The parents separated shortly after
their birth, and the boys were raised
primarily in Greenwich Village by their
mother. Matta-Clark (1943-1978) studied architecture at Cornell University
and evolved into a kind of urban land
artist who used his skills to reshape
and transform architecture into an art
of structural explication and spatial
revelation. He is best known for cutting up derelict buildings scheduled for
demolition, turning them into giant
temporary installations or extracting
fragments from them that he then
exhibited as sculpture.
This show, organized by Antonio
Sergio Bessa, the museum’s director of
curatorial and education programs,
and Jessamyn Fiore, an independent
curator and co-director of the Gordon
Matta-Clark Estate, is beautifully
staged in separate capsules of work. It
doesn’t attempt to give us a wide-angle
view of Matta-Clark’s brief but prolific
and extremely diverse career, barely a
decade in length, which ended with his
death from pancreatic cancer at the
age of 35. It concentrates on his photographs and videos, seen in appropriately large projections, and the ways
he constantly fused art and the documentation of art.
Nonetheless, the exhibition captures
his restless intelligence and, most
important, his relationship with the
city and the urban landscape, which
were sources of both inspiration and
material. “Anarchitect” also indicates
the freedom that the deterioration of
the South Bronx in the 1970s granted
him. Following the clarity of the exhibition’s staging, the focus here is on its
main works or groupings.
Matta-Clark may or may not have
known about the 1970 article “Towards
Anarchitecture,” by the British architect and theorist Robin Evans, when he
started using the subversive hybrid of
anarchy and architecture in the
mid-1970s, but it perfectly personifies
his attitudes. The show begins with a
piece consisting of 20 photographs,
about half of them stock images of
disasters seen from above. Installed
outside the exhibition galleries, these
visceral images introduce MattaClark’s sense of humor and his mordant eye for violent intersections of the
built and natural worlds.
The photographs show collapsed
buildings and bridges, a housing devel-
opment leveled by a tornado, train
wrecks and floods. In one, cars crowd
together on the ramped roadway of a
railroad crossing, like rats clinging to
driftwood. But the images taken by the
artist deepen the mood of life irrevocably disrupted, especially in retrospect.
In three, tombstones in a cemetery are
seen from different angles. Another
reveals the gap of space between the
towers of the World Trade Center. And
yet another was taken from one of the
windows of Matta-Clark’s top-floor loft
at 155 Wooster Street in SoHo, from
which his twin brother would jump to
his death in 1977. The image catches
the large ink-black shadow of the building’s profile cast on West Houston
Clockwise from top: Gordon Matta-Clark,
left, and Gerry Hovagimyan working on
“Conical Intersect” in 1975; “Bronx
Floors,” from 1972-73; and a “Garbage
Wall” inspired by those the artist made.
‘SUBSTRAIT’ (1976)
Matta-Clark’s interest in tunneling
through things is reflected in a series
of tours he took with a few friends,
armed with a video camera, along New
York City’s subterranean network. Old
railroad tracks beneath Grand Central
Terminal, the crypt at the Cathedral of
St. John the Divine, and the 13th Street
storm sewer and pumping station were
among the sites visited. Documented
by a series of murky video clips whose
primary audio consists of the voices of
different guides, they provide a heady
sense of the artist’s daring and curiosity and a healthy dose of suspense,
as if the Phantom of the Opera might
be lurking.
Matta-Clark made his first “Garbage
Wall” at St. Mark’s Church in the East
Village in 1970. Originally conceived as
the ephemeral set for a performance, it
mixed garbage with concrete. But
Matta-Clark soon saw that combination had possibilities for both cheap
housing and communal art; either way
After New York City officials discovered “Day’s End,” Matta-Clark faced
an arrest warrant and lawsuit. He
hopped on a plane to Paris — where he
had another obligation — and remained there until charges were
dropped. For the ninth Paris Biennale,
and with that city’s blessing and objections from both the left and the right,
he tackled a large 16th-century building being demolished to make way for
the Centre Pompidou. Its exoskeleton
appears in the video that records the
artist at work, assisted by Gerry Hovagimyan.
The result, “Conical Intersect,” was a
giant tunnel that telescoped down
through the building, widening as it
went. It may be easier to grasp from
some photo-collages here, but the
video conveys the grandiosity of
Matta-Clark’s vision, the fearlessness it
required and the solidity of the building being torn apart; 16th-century floor
beams are something to behold. Any
sadness about the loss of this ancient
structure may be complicated by the
video’s final shot, showing a steam
shovel knocking everything down, the
brief “Matta-Clark” included.
it was something that could be made
by anyone. For this exhibition, Jane
Crawford, Matta-Clark’s widow and
co-director of his estate (and Ms.
Fiore’s mother), oversaw the Bronx
Museum Teen Council in the making of
a new, colorful “Garbage Wall” installed on the museum’s terrace.
ban environment — though here he is
adding rather than subtracting — and
emphasize his gift for pictorial beauty.
The close-up images of wall graffiti
with added color tend to be the liveliest. Had Matta-Clark lived into old age,
he might even have taken up other
forms of painting, or at least built on
The show’s greatest revelation may be
a grouping of about 30 photographs in
black and white and, it seems, in color,
that Matta-Clark took of graffiti on
subway cars and walls and buildings in
the South Bronx. They have never
been exhibited in such abundance, and
their delicacy and color enliven the
show, especially the close-ups of walls.
And even more when you realize the
color images were actually handcolored by Matta-Clark using an airbrush. They add a new twist to his
penchant for interacting with the ur-
‘BRONX FLOORS’ (1972-73)
Some of Matta-Clark’s first interventions in the urban architectural fabric
were the pieces of floor (including the
beams and ceilings beneath them),
roughly four feet square, that he cut
from abandoned buildings in the South
Several photographs and photocollages document three of these extractions, and the show includes a single
example, its only sculpture. “Bronx
Floors,” from the Museum of Modern
Art, is displayed on a pedestal against
a wall, more like a relic than the stillshocking ready-made fragment that it
is. It has deep turquoise linoleum with
a gold quatrefoil pattern and two
thresholds, suggesting that it lay at the
juncture of three rooms.
‘DAY’S END’ (1975)
One of Matta-Clark’s long-gone masterpieces is “Day’s End,” a site-specific
piece executed without permits on one
of the decrepit piers on the Hudson
River in the West Village, which then
served mainly for assignations among
gays. (Four photographs by Alvin
Baltrop, who documented life on the
piers, as well as “Day’s End,” hang
nearby.) Matta-Clark was after light
and water views. He cut a big semicircle through the corrugated steel endwall of the piece. This half-moon, orange slice or primitive rose window
was echoed, just inside the building, by
a large quarter-circle cut through the
Matta-Clark’s relationship to the
ephemeral and the passage of time is
complex and was undoubtedly balanced by his use of cameras to document what he saw and did. In addition
to graffiti, he was drawn to all sorts of
architectural remnants, among them,
interior walls exposed during demolition. The show includes a dozen blackand-white photographs of such, sometimes from one room, sometimes in
multistoried clusters, all titled “Walls”
and hanging in a grid.
Across the way, an enormous wall is
covered with grainy versions of similar
images from the series: offset lithographs printed on newsprint that
repeat their forms in changing combinations of fruity plum, citrus and lime
and evoke Andy Warhol. This is
“Wallspaper,” first made to cover most
of a large wall at 112 Greene Street in
1972 and reprinted for subsequent
‘FOOD’ (1971-74)
Near the show’s entrance, situated
specifically in the museum’s cafe, a
60-minute video by Matta-Clark
records mealtime at FOOD, the relaxed
semi-communal restaurant, and artwork, that he and Carol Gooden
founded, with other artists, on the
corner of Wooster and Prince Streets
in SoHo.
It was 1971, and the neighborhood
was still a nexus of artistic experimentation. In perhaps his first architectural excision, Matta-Clark tore out
the storefront’s walls to achieve an
open-plan kitchen and exhibited one of
the fragments as a sculpture at 112
Greene Street. In the video, a viewer
may recognize artists like Keith Sonnier, Tina Girouard, Richard Nonas and
Suzanne Harris, as well as Matta-Clark
The memoir of the accuser
As Ronan Farrow reported in The New
Yorker in November 2017, shortly after
McGowan’s tweets Weinstein hired
several private security agencies, one
run largely by veterans of Israeli intelligence, to try to stop the story of his
longtime sexual predation from coming
out. Agents were explicitly directed to
spy on and undermine McGowan. “It
was like the movie ‘Gaslight,’ ” McGowan told Farrow. “Everyone lied to
me all the time.”
One of the greatest tricks that the
patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their
instability as a reason to disbelieve
them. Much of “Brave” reads like the
diary of a woman driven half-mad by
abusive men who assume no one will
listen to her. In this case, the truth was
finally — and, for McGowan, triumphantly — exposed, but reading
“Brave,” I kept thinking about how
many more women must be written off
as crazy and crushed under the weight
of secrets no one wants to hear.
Even before she met Weinstein,
McGowan had been through hell. She
was raised in the polygamous Children
of God cult, though her family fled
when its leadership started encouraging sex with children. She then spent
years bouncing back and forth between her cruel father and her unreliable mother, who for a time dated a
vicious man who McGowan says was
later charged with sexually abusing his
own daughter. McGowan did a brief
stint in rehab during junior high school
and later lived as an itinerant street
punk. Eventually she made her way to
Hollywood and was emancipated from
her parents before she was old enough
to drive.
This bitter history clearly left a
mark, and her book is furious and
profane, wild and a little unhinged.
“Very few sex symbols escape Hollywood with their minds intact, if they
manage to stay alive at all,” McGowan
writes early on. There’s no glamour in
“Brave,” and very little joy; I’ve never
read anything that makes being a
starlet sound so tedious and demeaning.
The book hinges on McGowan’s
encounter with Weinstein, whom she
refers to only as “the Monster.” Here,
for the first time, she tells the story of
what he did to her. It’s both disgusting
and, if you’ve followed the Weinstein
coverage, very familiar. She was summoned to a morning meeting in the
restaurant of an exclusive hotel in Park
City, Utah. When she arrived, the
restaurant’s host directed her to Weinstein’s suite, saying he was stuck on a
call. “I was certain we would be working together for many years to come,
and we were here to plot out the grand
arc of my career,” McGowan writes.
Instead, Weinstein pushed her into a
room with a Jacuzzi and pulled off her
clothes. “I freeze, like a statue,” she
.C a ГР
O t's У
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By Rose McGowan. 251 pp. HarperOne/
HarperCollins Publishers. $27.99.
If I had read Rose McGowan’s new
memoir, “Brave,” in a vacuum, absent
the feats of investigative reporting that
took down the former Miramax head
Harvey Weinstein, I would have
thought it overwrought and paranoid.
McGowan describes a life of almost
ceaseless abuse, of falling into the
clutches of one sadistic ogre after
another as powerful forces conspired
to crush her rogue spirit. “My life was
infiltrated by Israeli spies and harassing lawyers, some of the most formidable on earth,” she writes on the
first page. “These evil people hounded
me at every turn while I went about
resurrecting the ghosts that have
made up my time on earth.” Come on
— Israeli spies?
Of course, we now know: Yes, Israeli
spies. In October 2016, McGowan
posted three tweets accusing a “studio
head” of rape, using the hashtag
#WhyWomenDontReport. She was
referring to Weinstein, who, it’s since
been revealed, had paid her $100,000
for her silence about a 1997 encounter
at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
Rose McGowan at the Women’s Convention in Detroit in October.
writes. As she describes it, he put her
on the edge of the Jacuzzi, got in and
performed oral sex on her while masturbating. Her experience sounds
similar to the one that the actress and
director Asia Argento described to The
New Yorker. Like Argento, McGowan
says that she feigned pleasure in the
hopes of bringing the event to a
quicker conclusion. “He moans loudly;
through my tears I see his semen
floating on top of the bubbles,” she
Afterward, McGowan writes, she
was taken to a photo-op with Ben
Affleck, her co-star in “Phantoms,” a
movie she was promoting. Seeing her
shaken and hearing where she came
from, the actor said, “Goddamn it. I
told him to stop doing that.” (It’s unclear what Affleck meant by that statement; he has never responded to the
accusation that he knew about Weinstein’s abuse.) Others, McGowan
writes, “counseled me to see it as
something that would help my career
in the long run.” Wanting to press
charges, she spoke to a criminal attorney who told her she would never be
Soon she heard that Weinstein was
calling around town telling people not
to hire her. “It seemed like every creep
in Hollywood knew about my most
vulnerable and violated moment,” she
writes. “And I was the one who was
punished for it.” Her film career was
McGowan would eventually find
success playing one of a trio of witches
on the TV show “Charmed.” She describes working on the show as a
deadening experience, a “prison for
my mind.” Her sense of martyrdom
can be a bit much; she writes of feeling
“robbed” by having to get married on
TV before her real wedding. “Your
entertainment comes at a cost to us
performers,” McGowan writes. “You
should know this and acknowledge.”
Yet it’s McGowan’s profound dissatisfaction with her profession — one she
seems to have fallen into rather than
pursued — that has given her the
freedom to gleefully burn bridges. She
loathes the entertainment business,
describing Hollywood as a cult worse
than the one she grew up in. Though
she’s in her 40s, she sometimes writes
with the grandiosity of an alienated
adolescent whose mind was blown by
“The Matrix.” “You may think that
what happens in Hollywood doesn’t
affect you,” she writes. “You’re wrong.
My darlings, who do you think is curating your reality?”
For most adult readers, it won’t be
much of a revelation that Hollywood
trades in distortion and exploitation.
But I hope “Brave” finds its way into
the hands of teenage girls who may
still look to actresses as they try to
figure out how they’re supposed to be
in the world, girls who aspire to the life
McGowan once had. In the end, McGowan finds a measure of peace and
redemption when she moves behind
the camera, becoming a director and
multimedia artist, subject rather than
object. One of the lessons of her story
is that being desired is no substitute
for being powerful.
Michelle Goldberg is an Op-Ed columnist for The Times.
16 | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2018
Blistering guitars and blistering chicken
Double-wide honky tonks
compete with Southern
cooking in Nashville
Cramped and smoky, Santa’s Pub is a favorite dive bar, with cold, cheap beer and live music. The pub is housed in a double-wide trailer that does live music on Sundays.
ful.) I was expecting to sit smack in front
of a column — I wasn’t. The seats, on the
main floor, right in the middle of the auditorium, were perfect. And while there
was a thin pole in my line of sight, it didn’t bother me at all.
Onto the show — the Opry was one of
the most pleasurable music performances I’ve attended in recent memory.
After grabbing a $9 draft beer, we found
our seats to the din of audience chatter
and the buttery baritone of the evening’s
announcer and master of ceremonies,
Eddie Stubbs. Different acts come on
and play two or three songs — while
that’s happening, the next act is hanging
out in the wings, which gives the show a
casual, collegial quality.
An announcer’s podium is set up
stage right, along with different
producers and assistants working on
their laptops — bands tune their instruments, guests chatter and banter with
Mr. Stubbs, who also functions as an impeccable straight man, and the audience
.C a ГР
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/W e П
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A quarter leg of hot chicken with fried okra and French fries at Pepperfire.
by the venue and space is tight, which
means you have to be both lightning
quick and lucky to nab a seat. Tickets
typically run in the $20 to $30 range.
Cafe workers supposedly monitor
Craigslist and ticket sites to crack down
on scalping. If you’re not fortunate
enough to snag online tickets (the likely
case), you can wait in a queue for one of
10 or so same-day tickets. I showed up at
7:30 one evening and the man at the
door stifled a laugh. “Yeah, you’re not
gonna make it in,” he said.
Down but not out, I headed to Bransford Avenue to Santa’s Pub, a bar
housed in a trailer that does live music
on Sundays. After showing my ID to a
man with a huge beard (was that
Santa?), I headed inside, the top of my
head almost brushing the ceiling of the
double-wide. “No Cussin’, No Beer, No
Cigarettes” read a sign on the back wall.
Well, I counted all three. The place was
cramped and smoky, like any respectable dive bar, and the beer was cold and
cheap ($2 for a Pabst Blue Ribbon). The
band, a five-piece outfit called Santa’s
Ice Cold Pickers, was tight — their rendition of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms” had
me humming along.
Another highly enjoyable show I attended was at the Basement East, on the
other side of the Cumberland River in
East Nashville. The venue was decidedly less intimate than Santa’s or Bluebird,
but I couldn’t complain about the program — a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
tribute show, with proceeds benefiting
Autism Speaks. For $10 (plus $2 service
fee) I was treated to a Murderer’s Row
of young, local talent.
While music is unquestionably the
star of the Nashville scene, there are exceptional eats to enjoy between shows.
Hot chicken, which has seen its star rise
over the last decade, is one of the biggest
attractions. I loved my crispy-skinned,
exhilaratingly spicy leg quarter from
Prince’s Hot Chicken ($5) which has no
equal, in my opinion. But it also took an
hour of waiting in line.
It took no time to get my order at Pepperfire, another worthwhile hot chicken
joint less than 10 minutes away from
Prince’s. There, I dug into a Tender Royale, a spicy, deep-fried cheese sandwich topped with three chicken tenders
($12.49) with a strong, cumin-forward
For those looking for a complete
Southern meal, Arnold’s Country
Kitchen is the place to find it. The classic
meat-and-three (main course and three
side dishes) runs just $10.74 for a huge
tray full of food. I had a plate of thinly
shaved roast beef with macaroni and
cheese, tender greens and powerfully
smoky pinto beans.
Cafe Roze, a place with slightly
healthier fare from New York-transplant Julia Jaksic, does a mean grain
bowl called the Roze Bowl ($14) with
beet tahini, black lentils and quinoa. And
then there’s the happy hour at Chauhan
Ale and Masala House, an Indian-Southern food fusion restaurant, where I got
an order of lamb keema papadi nachos
with a tamarind chutney ($6) that I still
think about weeks after the fact.
But Nashville’s power to disarm and
delight remains rooted in its music.
When I attended the Opry, two guys who
go by the handle LoCash strutted onto
the stage in what came as the biggest
surprise of the night. At first glance, LoCash seemed to epitomize the slick
twang of everything I don’t particularly
green tomatoes ($11) were spot-on, and
the Nashville Caesar salad with cornbread croutons ($12), and a pulled pork
sandwich ($13) were satisfying. One
nice thing: When they saw we were
sharing everything, they were happy to
split the dishes into separate portions.
That strip of Broadway is just a
stone’s throw from Ryman Auditorium,
an indelible piece of Nashville history
that belongs on every to-do list, especially if the Grand Ole Opry happens to
be in residence. The Opry, an artistic
home to country musicians since it began in 1925, takes place primarily at
Opryland, about 25 minutes northeast of
downtown. But if you can, see the show
at the Ryman, home to the show from
1943-1974, which sometimes still hosts
the Opry. The building itself is a relic —
opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it earned the moniker “Mother
Church of Country Music.” Near the
back steps of its hallowed halls, Halena
and I passed a young street performer
with an amazing voice crooning a song I
didn’t recognize. In Nashville, even the
buskers have exceptional talent.
Tickets aren’t terribly cheap — the
premium seats run close to $100 — but
there’s a slight workaround. I picked up
the cheapest tickets I could find: Two
obstructed view seats for $48 apiece. (I
also checked StubHub and other secondhand ticket sites; they weren’t help-
groans and chuckles while cheesy ad
copy is read during the breaks. It’s a ton
of fun. And then, of course, there’s the
“Connie Smith, ladies and gentlemen,
the Rolls-Royce of country singers,” announced Mr. Stubbs, who then motioned
for us to applaud. Traditional crooners
like Ms. Smith were in the house, as was
a fresh-faced young man named William
Michael Morgan, who played his debut
single “I Met a Girl” (“He ain’t been off
the teat long,” quipped Mike Snider, one
of the other musicians).
Having discovered my inner country
music fan, I stopped by the Country Music Hall of Fame ($25.95, but only $14 after 4 p.m.; the museum closes at 5 p.m.)
to continue my education. It’s easy to
get lost in the overwhelming amount of
history and information — but make
sure you don’t miss, among other relics,
Carl Perkins’s blue suede shoes (yes,
those blue suede shoes), Elvis’s gold
Cadillac (complete with refrigerator
and swivel-mounted color TV) and
some of Chet Atkins’s old guitars, including his first, a Sears Silverstone.
But there’s no substitution for live music. I made my way to the Bluebird Cafe,
a popular, intimate venue that features
local and established acts. Tickets are
extremely difficult to come by (it’s been
showcased on the television show
“Nashville”). They’re released weekly
enjoy about modern country music —
impeccably crafted facial hair, power
chords and tacky clothes. Halena
grabbed my arm, and I braced myself
for awfulness.
Boy, was I wrong; these guys were
fantastic performers. Within minutes,
they had me and the rest of the audience
eating out of their hands — clapping and
singing along to a song I’d never heard
before. I don’t know if their exceedingly
catchy “I Love This Life” will go down in
so uzz
sm m le
ar eth ov
te in er
r. g
“Folsom Prison Blues,” the 1955 Johnny
Cash classic, isn’t exactly a deep cut —
anyone with even a passing familiarity
with country music has heard it. So
when the Don Kelley Band tore into the
opening riff at the beginning of their set
at Robert’s Western World — one of
many honky-tonks on a brightly lit neon
strip of Broadway in downtown Nashville — I nodded my head and tapped my
feet along with the other hundred or so
people in the joint. It was the musical
equivalent of comfort food — nothing
too surprising or challenging. I wasn’t
quite ready for what happened next.
Luke McQueary, a skinny 17-year-old
in a plaid Western-style shirt, stepped to
the front of the stage and, instead of delivering the workmanlike guitar break I
was expecting, set the stage aflame with
a blistering solo I would have expected
from someone twice his age and experience. It was no fluke — the virtuosity
continued during the following song,
performed with an earnest, almost Hendrix-like showmanship. I half expected
someone to come out from the wings,
wrap a robe around him, and help him
off the stage, à la James Brown.
I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have
been. A place nicknamed “Music City”
has a reputation to uphold, and Nashville was more than ready to exceed my
expectations. A mecca for talented musicians, Tennessee not only has more
high-quality live music than you could
ever hope to enjoy, but top-notch dining
— both traditional Southern cooking
and contemporary twists on old standards. It’s a great location for those on a
budget, too — I scarcely noticed the
damage to my wallet after a four-night
trip there in November.
That area of Broadway is a little like
the Las Vegas Strip or Bourbon Street:
crowded and touristy, but fun in small
doses. I visited there with my friend
Halena Kays, with whom I crashed in
nearby Murfreesboro, a suburb southeast of the city. We ended up at Robert’s
Western World accidentally, as our
plans to have dinner at nearby Merchants Restaurant, on the corner of
Broadway and Fourth Avenue South,
had hit a snag — the place was booked
solid. No matter: We grabbed a $4 fried
bologna sandwich (imagine a BLT —
now imagine it twice as salty) and a couple of $4.25 Miller Lites at the honkytonk while we listened to the band.
I soon received a text that a table had
opened up and we walked over to Merchant’s. The place effectively operates
as two restaurants, a pricier steak and
seafood restaurant on the second floor,
and a less expensive, modern Southern
bistro on the ground floor. We opted for
the bistro and grabbed a booth in the
bright, spacious dining room. The fried
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the annals of country music’s great
songs. But it was easily the most fun
four minutes of the trip, and had me
unironically singing the refrain the entire car ride home: I love a Friday night
— man, I love this life.
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