by any other name


Kelly J. Baker in the New York Times:

They want to convince the media that they are a “new form” of white nationalism that we’ve never seen before: clean-cut, intellectual, far removed from the unpolished white supremacists of the past. But the alt-right is not as new as we might think. In fact, efforts to dress up white supremacy in ideas and middle-class respectability have been around since the first organized movements emerged in the late 19th century — and once again, people are falling for it.

Olivia Nuzzi in the Washington Post:

Burying racist and anti-Semitic ideas in fancy language is nothing new, of course. David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, shed his Klan robe for a suit and now calls himself a “human rights activist .” This is clearly about presenting a more salable front for the persuadable public. But if it salutes like a Nazi, you can safely call it one.



the gene: an intimate history by siddhartha mukherjee


Hindu philosophers have long described the experience of “being” as a web—jaal. Genes form the threads of the web; the detritus that sticks is what transforms every individual web into a being. There is an exquisite precision in that mad scheme. Genes must carry out programmed responses to environments—otherwise, there would be no conserved form. But they must also leave exactly enough room for the vagaries of chance to stick. We call this intersection “fate.” We call our responses to it “choice.” An upright organism with opposable thumbs is thus built from a script, but built to go off script. We call one such unique variant of one such organism a “self.”



the more the merrier


Juliet Eilperin, writing in The Washington Post of the Obama’s administration reasoning on pushing through regulations in the final months:


While Republicans are already warning that they will reverse some of the rules Obama will issue during the last months of his presidency, White House officials are determined to move ahead, reasoning that having more rules in place will force the new administration to choose which ones are worth the time and effort of reversal.


Hilarious and kind of sad.


trump speaks with taiwan’s leader, an affront to china:

Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, in NYT:

The president-elect has shown little heed for the nuances of international diplomacy, holding a series of unscripted phone calls to foreign leaders that have roiled sensitive relationships with Britain, India and Pakistan. On Thursday, the White House urged Mr. Trump to use experts from the State Department to prepare him for these exchanges.


Newspapers in Taiwan reported last month that a Trump Organization representative had visited the country, expressing interest in perhaps developing a hotel project adjacent to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which is undergoing a major expansion. The mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, was quoted as confirming that visit.


Lawmakers expressed alarm at the implications of Mr. Trump’s freewheeling approach.“What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, wrote on Twitter. “It’s probably time we get a Secretary of State nominee on board. Preferably w experience. Like, really really soon.”

donald trump has not changed


Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, from The Washington Post:

Somewhere amid the insults, grievances and brags, Trump promised to heal this divided country.

“I’ve always brought people together. I know you find that hard to believe,” Trump said Thursday night as he kicked off the “Donald J. Trump USA Thank You Tour 2016” of states he won. “We are going to bring our country together, all of our country. We’re going to find common ground, and we will get the job done properly.”



our own fixer-in-chief

Trump’s remarks from Carrier Plant, taken from Time’s transcript:

And if I have to tell you, you know, doing speeches, I’d say — they say it’s not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business. I think it’s very presidential. And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK. That’s OK. Because I actually like doing it.

Trump styles himself, in his rallies and actions, as our own fixer-in-chief, believing it better for citizens to place their hopes not within institutions, but within him. What could possibly go wrong?

russia’s fixer-in-chief

David Filipov, writing in The Washington Post about Russia’s fixer-in-chief:

On any given nightly news broadcast, Vladi­mir Putin, face devoid of expression, voice quiet but martial, interrogates a cabinet minister or a director of a state-run factory or a utilities chief. If the economic news is good, the subordinate is off the hook and the next segment comes on.

But if prices have spiked, or salaries are low, or costs have gone way over budget, then ­Putin lays into the unfortunate bureaucrat — “What’s wrong with your head?” “Are you ­crazy?” “What are you saying?”— as the cameras roll and the Russian president’s quarry stammers and squirms.

It’s populist political theater that makes for really, really awkward television. But it helps explain the riddle of the enduring popularity of a ruler who has no checks on his power, no serious opposition, and who presides over a country mired in an economic slowdown.

Even as Putin plays the role of grand inquisitor, he has also positioned himself as the one person in the country to whom citizens can turn at a time when faith in government institutions is low.

George Will, writing back in October

… “the underlying goal” of Putin’s domestic disinformation is less to persuade than “to engender cynicism”: “When people stop trusting any institutions or having any firmly held values, they can easily accept a conspiratorial vision of the world.” Putin’s Kremlin is weaving a web of incongruous but useful strands.

In many worrisome ways, the 1930s are being reprised. In Europe, Russia is playing the role of Germany in fomenting anti-democratic factions. In inward-turning, distracted America, the role of Charles Lindbergh is played by a presidential candidate smitten by Putin and too ignorant to know the pedigree of his slogan “America First.”